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Statement: Beech-Nut to stop selling some rice cereal over arsenic concerns

PIRG calls on baby food manufacturers to recall products they know may hurt babies
For immediate release

WASHINGTON -- Beech-Nut will stop selling all single grain rice cereal after Alaska state officials discovered high arsenic levels during routing sampling, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement released Tuesday. The company simultaneously announced it will recall the lot of products tested in Alaska, but sold nationwide. 

According to the FDA statement, the company “is concerned about the ability to consistently obtain rice flour well-below the FDA guidance level and Beech-Nut specifications for naturally occurring inorganic arsenic.” There has been heightened awareness of levels of toxic ingredients in baby food since a February congressional report found alarming levels of metals in several popular brands, including Beech-Nut. Toxic metals can cause brain damage and harm neurological development in babies. Congress and consumer safety advocates criticized both the FDA and the baby food manufacturers. 

A month after that report, the FDA said it wanted to work with baby food manufacturers to reduce metals in food. After introducing the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021, the FDA in April announced its “Closer to Zero” plan to get toxic substances such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury to “as low as possible” levels in baby food. The FDA will be studying the issue for up to a year.

In response, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog Teresa Murray issued the following statement:

“Beech-Nut is doing what all baby food manufacturers should have done years ago -- figure out a way to make food safely or stop selling products that are dangerous. Would any baby food executives want their children eating food with arsenic in it?

“The company said this rice cereal tested above the FDA guidance limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic. In the congressional subcommittee report (pp. 3, 17-18), some Beech-Nut ingredients tested as high as 913 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic, and common additives -- used to create ‘crumb softness’ in food -- tested at more than 300 ppb of arsenic (p. 3). For comparison, the FDA limit for bottled water is 10 parts per billion of arsenic. 

“These baby food manufacturers aren’t required to test their final products or disclose results to regulators or to parents. The Baby Food Safety Act would address these issues and require foods to have much lower levels of metals much more quickly.

“But we shouldn’t have to wait for a law to protect our children. All baby food companies should immediately recall all foods that contain shamefully high and potentially hazardous levels of metals.” 

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The recalled Beech-Nut Single Grain Rice item (UPC Code# 52200034705) has an expiration date of 01MAY2022 and product codes: 103470XXXX and 093470XXXX. These specific product codes were distributed nationally through retail and online. Beech-Nut says no illnesses connected to these products have been reported to date.

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