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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-09504: Alison Johnstone (Lothian)

Scottish Green Party

Date lodged: 30 May 2017

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the recent study by Queen's University Belfast, which suggested that almost half of baby rice food products contain illegal levels of inorganic arsenic, what action it can take to ensure that food products for infants and younger children are safe.

Answered by: Shona Robison 12 June 2017

I am advised by Food Standards Scotland (FSS) that there have been maximum limits for inorganic arsenic in rice for use in foods for infants and young children since January 2016. These limits were established through EU food law, and apply across all EU Member States.

As there were no statutory limits in place immediately prior to that date, foodstuffs not complying with these maximum levels which were lawfully placed on the market prior to January 2016 were permitted to remain on the market until their date of minimum durability or use-by-date. Given that the Queen’s University Belfast study commenced in February 2016, one month after the new limits were applied, it is possible that the study included products containing rice that had been produced before the maximum limits were introduced, and for which legitimate transitional arrangements are in place. We continuously review new evidence and will consider whether this study adds to UK data on exposure to arsenic for young children.

FSS intends to support local authority sampling of rice products available at retail level to which new legal limits apply in order to monitor compliance. Funding by FSS to local authorities for this purpose will be made available later this year.