We are struck with fear when we hear that a food is tainted with arsenic. Take the recent juice scare or the new report out today from Dartmouth College indicating that arsenic levels six times the safety levels set for drinking water by the EPA were found in organic brown rice syrup used as a primary ingredient in some organic infant formulas, energy bars, and many “processed” organic foods. And yes, we should be concerned. According to the Dartmouth study published earlier today in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, there are currently no US regulations applicable to arsenic in food. So apparently, it’s only a potential hazard if it’s in our water, not our food. Really? Given this oversight of our governing bodies over food safety, should we be assuming that everything else is safe if it hasn’t had a university study that received wide-spread press? As it turns out, there is a brand of organic baby formula which includes the organic brown rice syrup in question and I would guess they are hard at work tonight on damage control and product reformulation. But what’s in the other stuff, the non-organic formula?
Similac®, manufactured by Abbott Nutrition who has a major facility right here in Columbus is the number #1 infant formula in terms of sales in America. I did a little checking on the Similac website and became frustrated when I could not find the ingredients lists for any of their brands there. So I went to the Abbott Nutrition website directly and did find all the ingredients listed for each brand. In looking over the many different options parents now have if the need to use formula in lieu of breast milk is necessary, I found some aspects of these formulas more disturbing than others. First, all of the milk-based formulas contained non-fat milk with the milk fat replaced with high oleic safflower oil and soy oil, both of which are likely sourced from genetically modified crops. If only the masses were so fearful of genetically modified ingredients as they are of arsenic. These GM ingredients have not been adequately tested for safety and have shown leanings toward ill-health in the limited tests in mice and rats that have been conducted on these “patented” food ingredients over the years. And that doesn’t even consider the risks that GM crops pose to our food supply and environment with the need to use ever-escalating amounts of pesticides to combat the super-weeds these GM crops provoke. If you haven’t read about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) yet, again I encourage you to check sources such as the Organic Consumers Association, NaturalsNews.com, or Slow Food USA to learn more.
Oh but wait. There’s more. Let’s take a look at a couple of the more specialized formulas like the Similac Sensitive® for fussy babies prone to gas, and the Go and Grow® formula for children 9-24 months. Both of these list corn syrup solids as the first ingredient. In case you’re not familiar, corn syrup solids are a highly refined form of sugar. Oh sure – breast milk has a high percentage of sugar too. But don’t be fooled. Mother’s milk contains lactose. It does not contain refined sugars that come from, you guessed it, genetically modified corn. Besides the GMO aspect of this ingredient, the fact that it is a highly refined sugar alone should be of concern in a nation with epidemic rates of childhood obesity and Type II diabetes. Regardless of what the Corn Council might have you believe, your body does in fact recognize the differences among various types of sugars and metabolizes them differently as a result. If you want more information on sugars, as well as a thorough layman’s education on fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, I would highly encourage you to pick up a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. You might just become obsessed with this knowledge like I have. For more on the ingredients in Similac Go and Grow®, you can check out this article published last September on NaturalNews.com.
So by all means, be concerned when you hear about elevated or worse yet, unregulated levels of arsenic in our food supply. But don’t stop there. Get educated on the other risks you may be taking. You have choices. And trust me. They are far easier to make once you can reasonably conclude the source of a broader array of ingredients listed on a food product. Who knows? You may even just decide you’re better off sticking with organic whole foods from local producers and farmers you can actually meet at your local farmers market or the farm itself.
Teresa Harlow, Owner, Toucan Foods