Arsenic Concerns Linger over Consumption of Rice

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brown riceAre you eating as much rice as you did a year ago when the report on arsenic in rice came out?  The report prepared by Consumer Reports tested different kinds of white and brown rice and found alarming levels of arsenic in rice, especially brown rice.

Health officials have known for a long time that arsenic occurred in rice because rice is grown in fields covered with water and arsenic in the soil and water is absorbed into the rice.  The problem is that there had not been many really comprehensive tests done to see how much arsenic was in the rice. 

There is more arsenic in brown rice because the outer layers of the grain in the brown rice retain the arsenic and that is where most of the arsenic is found.

Last year’s report woke up many people to the potential health hazard of consuming large quantities of rice.  After the report came out, health officials with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who have been doing some testing with rice since 1991, assured the public that the levels of arsenic in rice are at safe levels.

Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment and is also contained in certain pesticides.  There are two types of arsenic – organic and inorganic, with the inorganic form of arsenic considered more of a health risk.  The health risks of arsenic are real and high exposure to arsenic can cause different types of cancer, including lung, bladder, and skin cancer.

While the reports said rice is safe to eat, many health officials recommended eating only two or three servings of rice a week, and thoroughly washing the rice before cooking.

For people who have eaten brown rice every day for many years, this is a major change to their normal eating habits.  Brown rice is supposed to be one of the healthiest whole foods you can eat and now people were asked to modify the amount of brown rice they eat.

Personally, I have modified the number of times I eat brown rice from six times a week to about two or three.  The Consumer Reports article on arsenic in rice did show that the highest levels of arsenic in rice occurred in rice grown in the Southeast, while California-grown rice contained less arsenic.  One of the main reasons for this is the heavy use of arsenic-containing pesticides on cotton crops in the Southeast.

On September 6, the FDA came out with a comprehensive study of the levels of arsenic in rice in which over 1,000 samples of rice were tested.  The results showed that the levels of arsenic were low enough to not pose a risk to the general population for short-term health problems.  Basically, the report said keep eating rice but don’t consume excessive amounts of rice.  Long-term effects are not known.

So is it better to eat white rice instead of brown rice?  Brown rice is a whole food with more nutrients, especially B vitamins and manganese,  but also with more arsenic.  A good choice would be to mix up your meals, serving white rice occasionally, but still eating brown rice most of the time.  Just remember to wash the rice several times before cooking it and add more water when cooking the rice.

If you have diabetes or prediabites, you should limit your consumption of white rice since it will have an effect on your blood sugar level.


3 Responses to “Arsenic Concerns Linger over Consumption of Rice”

  1. Leslie 2013-10-10

    I don’t think the government was keeping up on the dangers of arsenic in rice and it takes Comsumer Reports to let us know about the problem.

  2. Maxine 2013-10-16

    Does anybody really know how serious the problem is? This makes me want to avoid rice and stick to potatoes and pasta.


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