Information from the Food and Drug Administration

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In September 2012, as part of the ongoing effort to monitor food safety and address concerns about food contamination, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released preliminary information about levels of arsenic in rice and rice products in the United States. According to the FDA, no changes in the consumption of rice and rice products—in infants, children or adults—are recommended at this time.

Arsenic is a highly toxic element that exists in two forms—organic and inorganic—both of which have been found in trace amounts in soil, water and air for many years. Traces of arsenic may be present in grains (including rice), fruits and fruit juices, vegetables and seafood. Arsenic levels in rice may be higher than other grains because rice takes up arsenic from water and soil more readily.

When ingested or inhaled in sufficient amounts, arsenic is extremely poisonous. Long-term arsenic exposure can cause the toxin to accumulate in the body, resulting in digestive problems, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration, nerve inflammation and muscle paralysis, and increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

Initial tests conducted on about 200 samples of various brands and types of rice (short grain, long grain, brown) and rice products (rice cereal [puffed, non-puffed, hot, infant cereal], rice milk) showed average levels of 3.5–6.7 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per serving. Further research is needed to determine what health risks, if any, are posed by these levels.

The FDA reports that this additional research will involve testing an additional 1,000 rice and rice product samples from the United States and other areas of the world, including the following:

  • White rice (long grain, medium grain, short grain)
  • Brown rice
  • Basmati rice
  • Rice crackers
  • Rice water
  • Infant formula
  • Rice wine
  • Breakfast bars, granola bars and crispy rice marshmallow treats

The FDA is continuing to work other organizations to determine if additional recommendations are necessary to reduce exposure to arsenic in rice and rice products and limit public exposure to the toxin. For now, the organization recommends a eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of grains. It also states that "…we are not aware of any acute health risks linked with the consumption of infant rice cereal in the U.S."

Ongoing Results

In September 2013, the FDA released additional results. According to the FDA, which has been monitoring arsenic levels in rice products for more than 20 years, there is no evidence that arsenic levels in rice have changed, and these levels are too low to cause immediate or short-term adverse health effects.

The Agency is continuing its risk assessment and research. The next step is to use new tools that provide more information about the different types of arsenic in foods and help determine the effects of long-term exposure to very low levels of arsenic in rice products. The FDA's advice to consumers in the United States is to continue following the above recommendations for a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 18 Sep 2012

Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015