Jay Highman, the CEO and president of Nature’s One, an Ohio company that made the nation’s first organic baby formula, says he was concerned when a study published in February implicated his formula as containing arsenic. The problem: organic brown rice syrup, one of the ingredients.
“We had always been known for having the highest standards for the cleanest, purest ingredients, and overnight we became a poster child for arsenic in rice,” Highman says. He resolved that he would find a way to eliminate arsenic contamination in the rice syrup.
Highman searched for the purest source for rice and found that he had to go outside of the U.S. to find rice with the lowest possible arsenic content. He declined to disclose his source for fear larger companies “will start devouring our supply chain.” He worked with his syrup supplier to develop a filtration process that would eliminate detectable levels of arsenic.
By July, he said the combination of more pristine rice and the new filtration process produced brown rice syrup that met his goal. We included samples of two Nature’s One dairy formulas and one soy formula in our tests.
The original powdered samples we tested of dairy- and soy-based formulas had inorganic arsenic that averaged 40.6 ppb for dairy and 77.7 ppb for soy.
When we tested the new versions of the two dairy formulas, the levels were either undetectable or nearly so. The company says its new formulation has use-by dates of January 2014 (Dairy with DHA & ARA), July 2015 (Dairy), or later.
Highman says he has been reworking the soy formula and hopes to produce a product that has lower levels of arsenic. If he can’t get it lower, Highman says he will create a non-dairy formula without soy. Meanwhile, an interim soy version we tested did have somewhat lower levels of arsenic, but it had higher levels of cadmium, another toxin.