#childsafety | WIC Program Still Includes Infant Rice Cereal High in Arsenic

Even if manufacturers don’t get out of the business of selling infant rice cereal, WIC should at least help protect infants by not including it in the list of products available through the program, says Paul Throne, board chair of the National WIC Association.

He says that unlike the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which targets food insecurity by helping families afford groceries, WIC’s focus is on providing essential nutritional support to infants and young children as well as pregnant and breastfeeding people. “It’s a child development program, and food is the medicine that we use for child development,” he says. 

In that context, he says, providing food known to be linked to developmental problems in children makes no sense. 

The USDA follows guidance from the FDA, which oversees food safety, saying it works “collaboratively with FDA, including when FDA takes necessary steps to remove foods from the market when they’re deemed to pose a health risk to the public.”

If the national WIC program doesn’t remove infant rice cereal from the foods it offers, individual states have the power to do so, says Throne, who is also the WIC director for the state of Washington. That state, along with Alaska, Hawaii, and Oregon, no longer makes rice cereal an option for enrolled families. Colorado will join the group in March 2023, and California is considering it. 

“Every state that runs a WIC program is able to make these decisions,” Throne says. When the risks of rice cereals became better understood, he says, “families probably were wondering what to do next and we just felt the best thing to do was to tell them that we won’t offer this any longer.” 

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