"The baby formula findings are concerning," Jackson said. Infants and people who eat gluten-free diets, which are largely rice-based, are most at risk for consuming too much arsenic via food, he explained, while "the risk for the occasional cereal bar eater is low."
Efforts by HealthDay to reach the Organic Trade Association for comment were unsuccessful.
This isn't the first time arsenic levels in foods have made the headlines.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of "The Dr. Oz Show," caused a public health stir in 2011 when he reported that roughly one-third of apple juice samples he'd tested had arsenic levels exceeding 10 parts per billion, the limit for drinking water. At first, Oz was criticized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but his findings were later confirmed by a Consumer Reports study that showed many apple and grape juice samples were tainted with arsenic.
What exactly are the health risks with arsenic?
"All we can fall back on is what we know about exposure through drinking water; risk of certain cancers or heart disease are slightly elevated in drinking water with a certain level of arsenic," Jackson said. "Moms should know that these rice-based formulas may contain arsenic and should limit exposure. Look at the ingredients when you purchase formula."
Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, said consumers shouldn't panic over the Dartmouth findings.
"As a registered dietitian, I would encourage consumers to not worry about this study, but to use it as a reminder that foods that grow in soil are growing with a wide variety of chemicals, both those found naturally in the soil and those that may be there from use of chemicals to foster growth," she said. "Whether the amount of any one chemical is enough to worry about is still a question that needs better research.
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