European Commission proposed maximum limits for arsenic in foods for infants and young children

Last updated:
6 February 2015
Update from European Commission expert committee of the 8 January 2015

The European Commission put forward a proposal for 'rice destined for the production of foods for infants and young children' of 0.1 mg/kg to come into effect in 2017. However, member states were uncomfortable with the long transition period for this limit when compared with the other proposed limits likely to come into force 2 years earlier.

The FSA sought to propose interim enhanced controls for infants and young children in 2015 to improve the situation. These were discussed at the Working Group meeting on 8 January 2015. The FSA proposed:

  • an initial maximum limit between 0.15 – 0.2 for 'husked rice destined for the production of foods for infants and young children' to apply from 2015 alongside the other proposed maximum limits (this is reasonably achievable)
  • the original proposed maximum limit of 0.1 mg/kg for 'milled rice destined for the production of foods for infants and young children' to apply from 2015 alongside the other proposed maximum limits
  • from 2017 the current proposed maximum limit of 0.1 mg/kg to apply to 'rice destined for the production of foods for infants and young children', replacing the separate maximum limits above

The Commission accepted the UK's suggestion to add wording to make it clearer that the maximum limit applies to rice destined for foods specifically aimed at infants and young children, rather than foods that may be consumed by them but not specifically intended for them. As such, the Commission proposed adding 'and labelled and sold as such' to 'rice destined for the production of food for infants and young children'.

Following extensive discussion, the Commission and member states decided that it would be appropriate for all limits for inorganic arsenic in rice (including the lower limit of 0.1mg/kg for rice destined for the production of foods for infants and young children) to come into effect  on the same date, which is likely to be 1January 2016.

It was considered by the expert committee that this would be the simplest solution that would provide the necessary measures to ensure the most vulnerable consumer group is adequately protected as soon as possible.

The FSA considers the Commission's new proposal to be a reasonable and pragmatic solution to this sensitive issue. However, we would welcome your further views on this issue as we appreciate that it is likely to be challenging in the short term, particularly for brown rice for use in products for infants and young children.

This item will be discussed at the standing committee on 11 February 2015, where there may be a vote to adopt the proposal.