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Can This Organic Sweetener Be A Source of Arsenic

Can This Organic Sweetener Be A Source of Arsenic?

Can This Organic Sweetener Be A Source of Arsenic?


Lots of people are trying to eat healthier these days. They choose natural sweeteners like honey, molasses, and fruit instead of artificial ones. However, even when a product is labeled as "organic," it might not always be the safest option if we are unaware of its origins or what it contains. In the United States, concerns have been raised about the levels of arsenic, especially inorganic arsenic compounds, which can be found in certain organic products. Inorganic arsenic compounds, although different from their organic counterparts, are highly toxic and can contribute to high levels of arsenic in the diet, leading to potential health effects. It's crucial to be informed about organic arsenic compounds and their presence in organic food items to avoid the risks associated with high levels of arsenic. According to the World Health Organization, ongoing exposure to even low levels of organic arsenic compounds can have long-term health impacts.

The Threat of Arsenic

Arsenic is a heavy metal that's common around us. It can harm our nerves and make it hard for our bodies to make particular proteins called enzymes. These enzymes help our brains work right. Arsenic can also make it challenging for other body parts, like our adrenal glands, to do their job. Our adrenal glands help us handle stress and give us energy. Plus, arsenic can mess with how our body uses important stuff like oxygen and other nutrients, which we need to stay healthy and eliminate toxins. However, the real threat of arsenic lies in its ability to cause poisoning when consumed at high levels, which can lead to serious health issues such as skin disorders, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Drinking contaminated water is a common source of high levels of arsenic, leading to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Long-term exposure can also cause skin changes and lesions, as well as other adverse health effects such as developmental issues, diabetes, pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease. Treatment for arsenic poisoning may include the use of a chelating agent or bowel irrigation, making disease control crucial in preventing and managing arsenic-related health issues. Understanding the threat of arsenic is vital for public health professionals, as studies have shown its significant impact on global health problems.

Arsenic and Food: Where It Hides

Common Foods and Products with Arsenic

Arsenic is a metal that appears in many things around us. Here’s where you can commonly find it:

  • Chicken and Pork: Sometimes, arsenic is added to chicken feed to help kill bugs and make the chickens grow bigger. This is only done in some places, but it's something to be aware of.
  • Salt
  • Herbs: The amount of arsenic in herbs can depend on the soil in which they are grown.
  • Unfiltered Water: If water isn’t cleaned correctly, it can have arsenic.
  • Seafood: Because arsenic can be in unfiltered water, fish and other seafood from oceans, lakes, and rivers might also have arsenic.
  • Alcoholic Beverages: Sometimes, arsenic is used on grape farms and can end up in drinks like wine.
  • Tobacco and Cigarettes
  • Paints: Yellow or green paints can contain arsenic because they match the color of arsenic.
  • Leather: Arsenic is used to help preserve leather.
  • Rice: Rice can soak up arsenic from the soil it is grown in, making it another common source.

Now, how does this relate to sweeteners? Organic brown rice syrup, a sweetener, can also have arsenic. This is because it comes from rice, which, as mentioned, often absorbs arsenic from the soil.

Case Study: Organic Brown Rice Syrup

Researchers at Dartmouth did a study where they checked how much arsenic was in foods that use organic brown rice syrup as a sweetener. This includes baby formula, cereal bars, energy bars, and foods for athletes who need a lot of energy.

What they found was worrying. One baby formula had six times more arsenic than what is considered safe for drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The safe limit is 10 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic, and this formula had a lot more, resulting in increased urinary arsenic levels in young children. Even some cereal bars and energy foods had higher arsenic levels if they used this New Jersey syrup than those that didn’t. Additionally, the FDA has issued guidance to not exceed inorganic arsenic levels of 10 ppb in apple juice, making it essential to carefully monitor the source of ingredients, such as organic brown rice syrup, in food products for the safety of young children. This is why drug administration standards need to be established to ensure the safety of consumers, especially young children when it comes to potentially harmful toxins in food products.

The researchers bought 17 baby formulas, 29 cereal bars, and 3 energy shots from stores to test them. Two baby formulas had organic brown rice syrup as the main ingredient, resulting in significantly high arsenic concentrations. One of these was made from dairy, and the other from soy. Both had way too much arsenic – over 20 times more than other baby formulas. The dairy-based formula had about 8.6 ppb of arsenic, and the soy one had 21.4 ppb. This is a lot, especially for babies, since even adults shouldn’t have more than 10 ppb. The use of organic brown rice syrup in infant rice cereal is a potential source of arsenic contamination, as it is a common ingredient in many baby formulas. Understanding the potential risks of organic brown rice syrup and its arsenic content is essential for consumers to make informed decisions about their food choices and possible health problems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, inorganic arsenic exposure is not safe.

They checked 29 different kinds of cereal bars. 22 of these bars had rice products like organic brown rice syrup, rice flour, rice grain, and rice flakes as main ingredients, including white rice. The arsenic in these bars ranged from 8 to 128 ppb. Bars without rice ingredients had less arsenic, from 8 to 27 ppb.

It's hard to avoid arsenic altogether, but knowing about it can help us make better choices about what we eat daily.

Testing for Arsenic Toxicity

Avoiding every bad thing out there, like arsenic, a type of heavy metal, isn't totally possible. But knowing where arsenic can be found helps us make smarter choices about what we eat and drink daily.

If you're worried you might have too much arsenic in your body, there's a special test called an HTMA test that can help you find out. You can easily take this test with us! After you get your test results, you can talk to one of our trusted experts. They'll help you understand your results and advise how to start feeling better. If your home is not on a public water system, you can also have your water tested for arsenic through a certified laboratory. This is an essential step in ensuring the safety of your drinking water, especially in rural communities with higher levels of arsenic. Contact your local health department for recommended procedures for testing for arsenic toxicity.


In conclusion, choosing organic sweeteners like brown rice syrup might seem a healthier option, but it's important to remember that they can sometimes carry hidden risks, like arsenic exposure. Understanding where our food comes from and what's in it can make a huge difference in our health. While it's not always possible to avoid arsenic entirely, being aware of its presence in common foods and products allows us to make more informed choices. If you're concerned about arsenic levels in your body, taking a test and consulting with a health expert can be great steps towards reducing your exposure and protecting your health. Remember, knowledge is power—especially regarding what we put into our bodies.

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