First is there arsenic in rice? Yes. However, according to Professor John Duxbury, a well-known expert on arsenic in rice at Cornell University, we normally take in small amounts of arsenic in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Arsenic is found not only in rice but many other food products including seafood, poultry, juices, coffee, beer, cheese, vegetables, bread and chocolate.
There are ‘species’ of arsenic, which can be in either organic or inorganic. Generally, the inorganic forms are considered to be more toxic as studies show that acute short-term or chronic long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic can cause adverse cancerous and non-cancerous effects. Because rice is generally grown submerged in water, arsenic in both the soil and water can increase concentrations in the rice plant so the total arsenic content in rice depends on the degree of arsenic contamination of irrigation water and soil. So, as with every other food, knowing the source is the most important thing, followed by proper preparation.
I always recommend soaking grains and seeds in pure water to deactivate phytates, and in this case soaking also reduces arsenic content, particularly inorganic, the most dangerous type.
As for rice cereal as baby’s first food, an entirely different study has now shown that starting baby on meat or eggs is a much safer and better option. Experts now say that rice cereal is not a healthy first food for babies as it is a very high glycemic food when eaten alone, contains high amounts of double sugar molecules, which are extremely hard for such an immature digestive system to digest since the small intestine of a baby mostly produces only lactase for digestion of the lactose in milk. It produces little to no amylase, which is the enzyme needed for grain digestion until about one year old.
So not feeding your baby rice cereal as a first food has less to do with the arsenic content in rice than it does in choosing a lower glycemic first food.
How often do you and your family eat rice?