You choose brown rice over white because it’s less processed and higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals. But a recent report published in Consumer Reports found that both kinds of rice sold in grocery stores contain arsenic, a toxic chemical element—and usually at higher levels in brown rice. Rice and rice products including cereal, crackers, pasta and drinks tested positive for the carcinogen in a Consumer Reports study published last November.
Consumer Reports tested more than 200 grocery store brands of rice and rice products, including organic brands, and found traces of arsenic in nearly every sample. Brown rice is liable to contain more arsenic because it retains the outer levels of the grain, where arsenic is most concentrated. The Consumer Reports study also found that rice grown domestically has higher concentrations of inorganic arsenic (the more poisonous of two kinds of arsenic) than rice grown elsewhere. The federal limit for arsenic in drinking water is 10 parts per billion in a liter, and the highest level of arsenic found in 1/4 cup of uncooked rice was 9.4, in Basmati rice.
There is no federal limit for arsenic in most foods, and the Food and Drug Administration is not recommending consumers change their diets to eliminate rice completely, although you may want to rotate it with other grains. Arsenic has been found to cause cancer of the bladder, lung and skin, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Brown rice image via Shutterstock