Europe is expected to set maximum levels on arsenic in rice levels

Europe is expected to set maximum levels on arsenic in rice levels

The UK's Food Standards Agency has said EU member states are close to agreeing on a limit for inorganic arsenic levels in rice-based foods.

Reports in the UK suggested "potentially dangerous" traces of arsenic had been found in baby food and children's breakfast cereals.

While inorganic arsenic is a naturally occurring ingredient in many foods, too much "could be harmful to health", an FSA spokesperson told just-food. The food safety watchdog in the past has recommended parents do not give toddlers and young children rice milk.

There are presently no EU-wide regulations for arsenic levels in food. The UK has a general limit of 1mg/kg for arsenic in food categories. The FSA has been engaged in discussions in Europe since 2009 about the need to set limits for inorganic arsenic in rice and rice products.

"There are regulations on the amount of arsenic in water but no limits currently for food. Discussions are ongoing in Europe between member states to agree maximum levels for rice and rice products. The limits are close to being agreed, and we expect them to apply from mid next year," said the spokesperson.

When asked what the impact could be to manufacturers of rice-based foods and whether they would be given a timeframe for when their products were expected to meet guidelines, the spokesperson said this had "not been clarified yet".

"This will be specified in the regulation when finalised," the spokesperson said.