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Shocking Levels of Arsenic Found in Rice

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Don’t you hate when you’ve just snacked on something that you later find out was recalled? It happens all the time to fruits and veggies, juice, peanut butter, etc. But what is even worse, is when you discover that a staple food you  regularly eat is laced with levels of arsenic potentially causing your body harm. This is the case for rice and rice products everywhere today. A recent report has discovered that rice and food products containing rice are contaminated with a shocking amount of inorganic arsenic, which is a known carcinogen linked to cancer.

So many countries rely on rice as a major part of their diet particularly Asian and Latino communities. The gluten intolerant crowd is also heavily reliant on rice as it is the main ingredient in the growing gluten free market. The Consumers Union conducted research on over 200 rice products which include baby foods, cereals, and breakfast bars along with just the rice itself like organic rice, brown rice and white rice (even some brands from whole foods!).  What they found was “worrisome levels of arsenic” in both of its forms, inorganic, which is a known human carcinogen, and organic which is the less toxic version but still concerning compound. This data is especially alarming for children and babies that can develop problems later in life from regular consumption.

Arsenic is an element that is found in nature and in man made products. There is arsenic in the air we breathe in the water we drink and the soil our food grows in. Therein the problem lies. Rice is a grain that grows in water-flooded conditions where arsenic is easily absorbed through its roots and ultimately stored in the grain. Rice happens to be much more effective at absorbing arsenic than almost all other plants. And if you’re a big brown rice eater than the news is about to get a little worse.

The outer layers of brown rice grains remain intact and have the ability to hold on to more arsenic opposed to white rice that is stripped of its outer layer during the manufacturing process making it less susceptible to the toxin. Currently there are no federal standards for arsenic in food. The environmental working group has suggested taking precautions until there are some restrictions in place. Here are some tips to limit exposure to arsenic when you are chowing down on that rice bowl from your fav restaurant:

#1- Replace rice with grains like quinoa, barley, grits, couscous or bulgur wheat. If you must eat rice choose aromatic varieties like imported jasmine or basmati rice because they have shown roughly half to one eighth the amount of arsenic levels when compared to regular rice that is grown particularly in the Southern United States. 

#2- Rinsing your rice until the water runs clear can reduce arsenic content by up to 25-30% according to the FDA

#3- In relation to tip 2 you should check arsenic levels in your municipal water supply. If it is less than 10 parts per billion than it is suggested to rinse your rice. If not than it can actually make matters worse.

#4- Eat California rice if possible. The Consumer Reports study showed that rice grown in the west coast state had significantly lower levels of arsenic. 

#5- A good rule of thumb is to limit your rice intake to two servings per week for adults and less than a cup per week for kids.  

Photo Credit: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by sweetbeetandgreenbean on Flickr

Angie Tarantino
About Angie Tarantino (151 Posts)

Angie Tarantino is a contributor and part founder of The Environmental Blog. She covers animal rights, green tips and general green news topics She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Follow @EcoChic314


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