Action on smaller soft drink containers and school lunches are important steps in fighting obesity
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

Tests show arsenic found in wide variety of rice products – What should you do?

Rice

Due to allergies, I eat a lot of rice – rice milk, rice cereal, rice crackers, rice pancakes, and rice noodles.

However, I’ll need to look at how much rice I eat because tests by Consumer Reports found rice products contain arsenic, many at high levels.

Arsenic in rice

The testing organization 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, according to the article “Arsenic in Your Food: Our Findings Show a Real Need for Federal Standards for This Toxin.”

Using a 5-ppb standard in its study, Consumer Reports found that a single serving of some rices could give an average adult almost one and a half times the inorganic arsenic he or she would get from a whole day’s consumption of water, about 1 liter.

Consumer Reports also discovered that some infant rice cereals had levels of inorganic arsenic at least five times more than has been found in other cereals such as oatmeal.

In addition, the testing organization looked at government data on the health and nutrition of a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. It found people who eat rice have higher arsenic levels.

Guide for cutting rice consumption

Due to its findings, Consumer Reports suggests limiting the consumption of rice products. Among the recommendations in its chart, Limit Your Exposure, are: adults should eat 2½ servings a week of hot cereal; ½ serving a day of rice drink; 2 servings a week of rice; and 1 serving a day of rice crackers.

The testing organization also recommends cooking 1 cup of rice in 6 cups of water instead of 2 cups, then discarding the water.

Arsenic standards and other action needed

As a result of the rice report, Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, recommends:

  • A standard should be set for arsenic in rice.
  • The industry should step up efforts to reduce arsenic levels in rice, including developing rice that takes up less arsenic and using rice with the lowest possible arsenic levels in products for children.
  • Agricultural practices that can lead to more arsenic in rice should be prohibited including the use of: pesticides containing arsenic; manure that contains arsenic as a fertilizer; and animal feed with arsenic-containing drugs and animal byproducts.

For additional information, including the levels of arsenic found in various rice products, see www.ConsumerReports.org/cro/arsenicinfood or get the November issue of Consumer Reports at newsstands or local libraries.

Copyright 2012, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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