Tests show arsenic found in wide variety of rice products – What should you do?
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FDA releases preliminary data on arsenic in rice and rice products, but says more analysis is needed to determine whether action is needed to reduce arsenic levels

Today, I ate zucchini and scrambled eggs for breakfast rather than rice cereal and rice milk.

Rice Products 2That’s because Wednesday I wrote about Consumer Reports’ investigation on arsenic in rice and rice products.

Consumer Reports found significant levels of inorganic arsenic, which is a carcinogen, in almost every product category, along with organic arsenic, which is less toxic but still of concern.

The FDA analysis

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released preliminary data on arsenic levels in selected rice and rice products.

The data are part of a larger FDA study on arsenic levels in rice and is based on the first set of about 200 samples of rice and rice products collected in the United States.

The FDA is in the process of analyzing about 1,200 rice samples. The study will be completed by the end of 2012. At that time, the FDA will determine whether to issue additional recommendations.

Based on the current data and scientific literature, the FDA doesn’t have an adequate scientific basis to recommend changes by consumers about their consumption of rice and rice products, the agency said in a statement.

No recommendations yet

“Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains – not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

The two types of arsenic compounds found in water, food, air, and soil are organic and inorganic. Together, the two types are referred to as total arsenic.
 
The data show how much inorganic arsenic the FDA found in its initial samples, which include various brands of Basmati rice, non-Basmati rice, brown rice, rice cakes, rice milk, and rice cereals – puffed, non-puffed, hot cereal, and infant cereals.
 
Arsenic findings

The FDA’s analysis of these initial samples found average levels of inorganic arsenic for the various rice and rice products of 3.5 to 6.7 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per serving. Serving sizes varied depending on the rice product. For example, one serving of non-Basmati rice was equal to one cup cooked. A summary of the 200 sample findings can be found at www.fda.gov.
 
While the FDA preliminary data is consistent with results that Consumer Reports published Wednesday, the agency said more analysis is needed. Many different types of rice and rice products are grown in different areas and under different conditions. Further analysis is needed to determine how these variations may affect the arsenic levels, the FDA said.

Consumer Reports responds

Consumer Reports responded to the FDA preliminary findings, and those of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office that detected high levels of inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereals, by again calling for the FDA to set standards for arsenic in food.

For more information, see Arsenic: Questions and Answers, FDA Arsenic Data Analysis, and Consumer Update: FDA Looks for Answers on Arsenic in Rice.

Copyright 2012, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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