Posted September 9, 2013
On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a study on arsenic levels in rice and rice products, concluding that consumers should not be concerned about immediate or short-term adverse health effects, but should vary their diets, according to Mary Clare Jalonick of the Associated Press in an article available here. FDA will now focus its efforts on the long-term effects of rice consumption.
The study, available here, looked at levels of inorganic arsenic in 1,300 samples of rice and rice products, “the largest study to date looking at the carcinogen’s presence in that grain.” The study shows varying levels with the highest levels of arsenic in brown rice and the lowest in instant rice. Infant cereal and infant rice formula are “also at the low end of the spectrum.”
Arsenic exists in two forms, organic and inorganic, and is naturally present in water, air, food, and soil. Organic arsenic “passes through the body quickly and is essentially harmless.” Inorganic arsenic, found in some pesticides and insecticides, “can be toxic and may pose a cancer risk if consumed at high levels or over a long period.”
FDA will conduct a risk assessment with the National Institute of Heath and the EPA to measure how much organic and inorganic arsenic is being consumed through rice and “whether those levels are dangerous.”
Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, called the sampling results “an important step in our process, and the most complete set of data on arsenic in rice in the world” according to a Wall Street Journal article, available here. Taylor said that FDA will study the “chronic risks of rice consumption” and “called the effort a high priority for the agency.”
The U.S.A. Rice Federation said it was “pleased” by the results of the study and said “the industry is conducting research into how it can lower levels of arsenic in its products.”
Urvashi Ragan, Consumer Reports’ director of consumer safety and sustainability, said her group had been talking with the FDA for two to three years about arsenic levels in rice. Dr. Rangan said her group was “pleased with where they’ve gotten,” but a “solution” is needed, which means “setting a standard” for how much arsenic can be present in rice.