Arsenic in Rice

Arsenic in Rice

Another mitigating factor in levels of contamination is geography. Where rice is grown affects its toxicity, with highest levels showing up in rice from the southern states like Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas; or in the Midwest, like Missouri. Also, these states have vast tracts of farmland formerly devoted to growing cotton, and arsenic-based pesticides were copiously applied to the soil for years (they have been banned since the 1980’s). Rice from California has lower levels of arsenic, although it still considered significant.

A single serving of rice products may not be such a big problem. It is the increased risk from chronic exposure to rice-containing foods daily, especially for high risk groups like infants, pregnant women, those on a restricted gluten diet or ethnic groups like Asians or Indians who eat rice on a daily basis who may suffer the greatest effects. Arsenic is in your breakfast cereal, energy power bar (the brown rice syrup), rice crackers and the brown rice with sautéed veges you eat for dinner. What is the first solid food most babies eat- rice cereal!

The FDA just released their own test data this month (Sept 2013) of over 1300 products, asserting levels of inorganic arsenic were too low to cause any “immediate health damage”. Blum says they haven’t gone far enough to reassure consumers that foods containing any amounts of arsenic are safe in the long term. They are now initiating a study of long-term effects, which will be carried out over the next few years.

To be “safe”, here are some safety guidelines:
1. Read food labels for rice ingredients, including rice derivatives like brown rice syrup.
2. Eat a cross section of all foods daily.
3. Consider alternatives for an infant’s first solid food.

For more detailed information on testing and consumer information:
Consumer Reports
"The FDA sidesteps on arsenic and rice"
"An FDA postscript on arsenic and rice"

To Your Health!