The truth about arsenic and rice

The Consumer Reports study says that adults should eat no more than two servings of rice each week, and babies should consume no more than one serving a day of infant rice cereal.

We were alarmed when we heard about the levels of arsenic in rice and rice products recently uncovered by Consumer Reports, so we asked registered dietitian Rachel Begun, M.S., R.D., to break down the findings for us.

What did Consumer Reports found in its study?

Following their investigation of arsenic in juices, Consumer Reports tested 223 samples of rice and rice products across a broad range of food categories, and found varying levels of arsenic in more than 60 rice and rice products. They tested for both levels of inorganic and two forms of organic arsenic. Inorganic arsenic is the form associated with long-term health effects.

Are there limits on how much arsenic can be in food?

Currently, there is no federal limit for arsenic in foods. The FDA is in the process of testing 1,200 rice and rice products by the end of 2012 so they can analyze the results from a variety of rice types and rice-based products as well as based on the geographical regions the rice is grown in. Based on these results, they will make recommendations and take measures for reducing exposure to arsenic. 

Do the findings affect different types of rice?

For brands producing both white and brown rice, brown rice was found to have higher levels of arsenic. This may be due to arsenic concentrating in the outer layers of the grain, which are removed for white rice production.

Tell us what arsenic does to your body.

Long-term exposure to high arsenic levels has been associated with cancer and heart disease.

Does this mean that we should stop eating rice? Are there safer ways to go about incorporating it into our diets?

Consumers should take the following precautions:

Eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods, including a variety of whole grains. This ensures adequate intake of nutrients while minimizing the risk of potential harm from any one food.
 
Rinse raw rice in cold water before cooking.



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