MasterShoestring has been drinking rice milk since he was quite young. He had a specially formulated formula when he was small as he was allergic to breast milk and normal formula. Then we tried soya milk but he was intolerant to that so we moved to rice milk and for the past decade or so have been happily using it to make hot chocolate, pancakes, bread etc. to boost his calcium intake.
A kind blogger over at Frugal in Norfolk featured a whole piece about arsenic in rice the other day and I began to do a bit more research. We had heard about the problem with arsenic, especially concentrated in brown rice last year and as a result had cut down our consumption. However, I had not heard that the problem was especially bad in rice drinks with all the ones tested containing higher levels of arsenic than are recommended in drinking water. It was hard to find actual figures, so in the end I read the original report from the University of Aberdeen. It is an interesting read, but not an easy one and it confirmed that the levels of inorganic arsenic in rice drinks are high enough to say that it should not be given to children under 5. The report says that further investigation is needed into the impact on such groups as the one MasterShoestring falls as being dairy and soya intolerant, as they are likely to consume higher levels of these drinks than the rest of the population.
I stocked up on rice milk at the start of the month when it was on special offer and this morning I poured the remaining 6 litres down the sink. MasterShoestring is still growing, very rapidly at the moment and it felt wrong to use the rice milk when I wouldn't let him drink water with that level of arsenic contamination. I wish there was a bit more publicity about this issue and that it was easier to find out the facts, as some rice is not contaminated.
The Food Standards Agency in the UK and the FDA in the USA do have some information on their website but there are no recommended levels for arsenic in food which children eat so now that I know I'm playing safe.
The big problem now is what to substitute the rice milk with, as MasterShoestring can't have most of the alternatives ! I think we may be looking at grinding up calcium tablets !!