Rice, usually considered to be a "hypoallergenic" food that settles the stomach, can actually trigger a severe allergic reaction, reveals research published ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
The Australian researchers base their findings on 31 infants less than 12 months old with severe gut inflammation. This was induced by their dietary intake of protein, known as food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome.
The severity of the symptoms, which include diarrhoea and/or vomiting a couple of hours after eating the trigger food, often prompt a misdiagnosis of blood poisoning (sepsis) or an acute abdominal problem requiring emergency surgery.
Common culprits are cow's milk and soy protein. But vegetables, meats, and grains may also cause problems.
The 31 children had episodes on 56 occasions over a period of 16 years at one children's hospital.
Cow's milk and soy proteins accounted for 30 of these episodes in 10 and 7 children, respectively.
But by far the most common trigger was rice, which accounted for 26 episodes in 14 children. Rice was the sole trigger for 9 of these children.
On average, the child endured the symptoms on four occasions before the syndrome was correctly diagnosed.
And the symptoms were more severe than those caused by cow's milk or soy proteins. Four out of 10 children for whom rice was the trigger required resuscitation with intravenous fluids.
This compares with one in six of those for whom cow's milk or soy proteins were the triggers.
Rice has become a staple food in the Australian diet, with per capita consumption doubling between 1994 and 2004 alone. Dietary guidelines recommend it as one of a child's first solid foods.