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Expert advice: children should not to eat rice cakes due to risks of cancer

Health & Science

STOCKHOLM: Sweden's National Food Agency has changed its recommendations on rice products, stating that many products contain dangerously high levels of carcinogenic arsenic and should be consumed in moderation.

Children should not eat rice or rice products more than four times a week and children under the age of six should stay away from rice cakes altogether, the National Food Agency advised, after investigating 102 rice products sold in Sweden and concluding that the arsenic levels were too high in some cases.

"We already knew there was arsenic in rice. That is why we have now concluded that some products that are on the market contain quite high levels," Emma Halldin Ankarberg, a toxicologist at Sweden's National Food Agency, told Swedish Television.

The rice product market for young children, which includes crackers, cereals and puddings, is booming. Gluten intolerant children tend to eat particularly high quantities of rice products.

While adults can eat more rice than children, they should also try to cut down, the agency says. Eating rice a couple of times a week is fine, though, Halldin Ankarberg suggested.

The National Food Agency has also established that organic rice contains just as high levels of arsenic as non-organic rice, with raw rice containing more arsenic than basmati and jasmine rice.

"If one eats products containing arsenic during several years, then the risk of getting different forms of cancer -- lung cancer and bladder cancer -- increases," said Halldin Ankarberg.

Arsenic is a natural element that is ubiquitous in the environment and can be found in rocks, soil, water and air, as well as in plants and animals. For most people, food is the largest source of arsenic, although much of this is likely to be in the less dangerous, organic form. The highest levels of arsenic in foods can be found in rice products, mushrooms and poultry.

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