FDA Analyzing Arsenic Found in Rice; Advises Consumers Eat a Balanced Diet of Multiple Grains

Samples of Rice and Rice Products Found to Contain Levels of Arsenic; FDA Advises Eat a Balanced Diet of Multiple Different Grains (Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Consumer Update on September 19, advising that as part of its regular sampling and testing of U.S. food products, the agency has found varying levels of inorganic arsenic in samples it has taken of rice and various rice products.

In the update, FDA stated, “The agency has analyzed nearly 200 samples of rice and rice products and is collecting about 1,000 more. Since rice is processed into many products, these samples include rice products such as cereals, rice beverages and rice cakes.”

The arsenic levels found have varied greatly from sample to sample, even within the same product, the agency said.

FDA’s Advice to Consumers

The FDA’s update advises consumers that, “Based on data and scientific literature available now, FDA is not recommending that consumers change their consumption of rice and rice products at this time, but that people eat a balanced diet containing a wide variety of grains.”

“Once FDA has completed its analysis of about 1,200 rice products, the agency will analyze these results and determine whether or not to issue additional recommendations,” the update stated.

FDA expects to complete the additional collection and analysis of samples by the end of the year, it said.

The agency said that it “is paying particular attention to rice and rice products consumed by children, as well as consumers like Asian-Americans and those with celiac disease who may consumer higher levels of rice.”

The FDA’s Consumer Update, FDA Looks for Answers on Arsenic in Rice, which was issued on September 19, 2012, is found in its entirety on the FDA website.

FDA’s Preliminary Findings: Levels of Arsenic Found in Rice Samples

According to the FDA’s September 19, 2012 Consumer Update, “FDA’s testing of the initial samples found these examples of inorganic arsenic in micrograms (one millionth of a gram) in individual samples:

  • Rice (other than Basmati rice): 6.7 per 1 cup (cooked)
  • Rice cakes: 5.4 per 2 cakes
  • Rice beverages: 3.8 per 240 ml (some samples not tested for inorganic arsenic)
  • Rice cereals: 3.7 per 1 cup
  • Basmati rice: 3.5 per 1 cup cooked”

“FDA has been monitoring arsenic levels in rice for more than 20 years,” the agency explained. “Its analysis thus far does not show any evidence of a change in total arsenic levels. The change is that researchers are better able to measure whether those levels represent more or less toxic forms of arsenic,” the FDA Consumer Update stated.

“We understand that consumers are concerned about this matter. FDA is committed to ensuring that we understand the extent to which substances such as arsenic are present in our foods, what risks they may pose, whether these risks can be minimized, and to sharing what we know,” FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. said in the FDA’s Consumer Update.

Sources of Arsenic in Rice

According to the FDA’s update, “arsenic is a chemical element distributed in the Earth’s crust. It is released from volcanoes and from the erosion of mineral deposits. It is found throughout the environment—in water, air and soil. For that reason, it is inevitably found in some foods and beverages.”

“Human activities also add arsenic to the environment. They include burning coal, oil, gasoline and wood, mining, and the use of arsenic compounds as pesticides, herbicides and wood preservatives,” the FDA said.

“Rice comes from all over the world and is grown very differently from region to region, which may greatly vary the levels of arsenic within the same kind of product. The larger sample that FDA is taking will cover the wide variety of rice types, geographical regions where rice is grown, and the wide range of foods that contain rice as an ingredient.”

Conclusions; Next Steps

The FDA said that it is working with other government agencies, industry, scientists, consumer groups and others to study the issue and assess risks associated with the levels of arsenic found in rice samples.

“It is critical to not get ahead of the science,” cautioned Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods. “The FDA’s ongoing data collection and other assessments will give us a solid scientific basis for determining what steps are needed to reduce exposure to arsenic in rice and rice products.”

Meanwhile, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. reiterated that the FDA’s advice to consumers is not that they change their consumption of rice or rice products at this time, but that they eat a balanced diet with a broad variety of different grains.

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

More Information

See the FDA’s complete Consumer Update on FDA Looks for Answers on Arsenic in Rice, which was issued on September 19, 2012, and is found in its entirety on the FDA website.

See all of FDA’s Recent Consumer Updates in its website.

For more information on a healthy diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors that promote wellness and prevent diseases, see the HelpingYouCare® resource pages on Wellness/ Healthy Living for Seniors & Caregivers, including:

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