Rice Products May Contain Unhealthy Levels Of Arsenic. Limiting Intake Is Recommended.

Rice May Contain Unhealthy Levels of Arsenic09-19-2012  ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today Show reported a consumer warning.  Consumer Reports magazine released a new report on what it calls “worrisome levels of arsenic” in many types of rice products. Rice eaten just once a day can drive arsenic levels up in the human body about 44% and eaten twice a day can lead to a 70% increase in arsenic.  They are suggesting consumers limit their intake. 

Consumer Reports tested more than two hundred samples of the most popular brands of various rice products for arsenic. Brands such as Uncle Ben’s, Kellogg’s, Goya, organic brands and even Gerber.  From a range of products like cereals, brown and white whole-grain rice and pasta.

Parents with children who are still developing and have significantly lower body weight than adults will be particularly concerned about infant rice cereal, ready-to-eat cold breakfast cereals and rice milk because they are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of arsenic.

Some of these products contained moderate to moderately high levels of arsenic, some more than the EPA’s legal standard drinking water.  Inorganic arsenic is considered a level 1 carcinogen, and studies show sustained exposure is linked to lung and bladder cancer and skin cancer.

Consumer Reports’ Urvashi Rangan, PhD, Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability ran the study and they are very concerned. Their message to the FDA is that it is time to set a standard for arsenic levels in food.  “We called for that on apple juice in January.  We’re calling for that again in rice products today.”

Many food products contain a small amount of arsenic picked up from the soil and ground water.  The experts say rice contains more arsenic the other grains because it is grown while submerged in water, making it more easy for the rice to absorb the poison. GMA’s report said some rice products tested contained 5 times more arsenic than what was found in oatmeal.

Anne Banville of the USA Rice Federation appeared in the Today Show report. She says they have not seen any established health concerns that can be pointed to as a result of people eating rice. But what is known is that rice is a nutritious and healthy food.

But in light of the arsenic danger in rice…What steps can we take to limit the arsenic intake?

  • Gerber says it checks for arsenic and only uses rice from regions with the lowest levels.
  • Margaret Hamburg, FDA Commissioner, who appeared on the Today Show, said they are in the process of conducting even larger studies on the arsenic levels in rice. In the meantime, they recommend we eat a varied diet. Use a variety of other grains such as oatmeal, corn, wheat, and even quinoa.
  • Consumer Reports suggests consumers should take steps to moderate their consumption and cut back on rice. Limit infant rice cereal to one serving per day for babies and excluding rice milk from the daily diets of children under the age of 5.
  • Though considered less nutritious, white rice contains less arsenic than brown because white rice is polished removing those outer layers on the brown rice which would contain more arsenic.
  • Consumer Reports suggests rinsing the rice well until the water is clear.  Then cook the rice in lots of fresh water, about a six to one ratio and drain cooking water off before eating.
  • Dr. Oz appeared on the Today Show. He agrees that chronic exposure to arsenic can lead to serious health problems. He suggests we adopt the UK policy. For children under 5, do not feed them many rice products especially rice milk beverages. Try alternatives like almond milk and hemp milk. He also suggests rinsing first and then cooking in lots of water “pasta style.”  He says this method is used in Asia and can reduce arsenic levels up to 30%.

 

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