FDA Evaluating Levels of Arsenic in Rice

New testing data on the levels of arsenic found in rice and rice products, such as crackers, cereals and other food items, has raised serious questions and concerns among consumer groups and federal health regulators. 

According to the results of an independent study done by Consumer Reports, high levels of total arsenic, organic and inorganic arsenic, were found in nearly every rice product tested. The findings prompted the FDA to begin their own investigation into arsenic levels in rice.

Consumer Reports also found that the rice that tested higher for arsenic was grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas. These areas account for 76 percent rice sold in the U.S. The levels of arsenic were also much higher in brown rice.

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The group also tested people who consistently ate rice, finding that these people often tested positive for arsenic in their system, 44 percent higher than people who do not eat rice.

Arsenic, a known human carcinogen, is measured according to organic and inorganic levels, also known as total arsenic. Inorganic arsenic is toxic to humans and is associated with long term health affects, including different forms of cancer, heart disease and death. Both forms of arsenic are found in soil and ground water and may also be found in many food products, including fruit juices and juice concentrates.

FDA Launches Analysis of Rice Arsenic Safety

In response to the Consumer Reports study, which included more than 200 samples, the FDA has launched its own investigation into the levels of arsenic in rice.

According to an FDA news release issued yesterday, the agency reported that preliminary data from the investigation, while consistent with much of the Consumer Reports findings, did not warrant changes made to recommendations on the consumption of rice and rice products.

The FDA states that it is in the process of analyzing 1,200 samples of rice and rice products and estimates the data collection will be complete by the end of 2012. After analyzing the data, the FDA will then determine if additional recommendations should be made based on the findings.

“The 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 news release.

The FDA’s preliminary analysis 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. They emphasize that preliminary data is not enough to determine the health risks the arsenic may pose or to determine the steps to take to reduce the levels of arsenic in rice.

Before making an informed recommendation to the public. the FDA will complete a thorough assessment once all the testing has been completed and the data analyzed.

Tags: Arsenic, Rice

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