Rice Contains High Arsenic Levels
Rice is a staple and popular food used on a daily basis throughout the world. Rice can be made into cereals, syrups, powders and more and this is where the concern lies – There has been some heavy controversy around the world about rice and various rice products, including those produced from organic rice, being contaminated with high levels of Arsenic.
In this article I address these concerns and help you find safer options and I also have included some correspondence from some organic rice product manufacturers both here in Australia and the US.
Arsenic In Rice Based Baby Formula & Foods
By far the biggest concern is that many baby and toddler food products, including rice based baby formulas are manufactured using brown rice and rice bran syrup, both of which contain higher than considered safe levels of arsenic, with rice syrup having the highest measurements of arsenic.
Governments throughout the world are concerned about babies and children under the 4-5 year old age bracket, who consume, often on a daily basis, a lot of rice products e.g baby rice cereals, rice syrup sweetened infant formulas and rice milks as a substitute for cows and soy milks.
For older children and adults it is believed that the amount of arsenic in rice does not pose as big of a health risk, due to a higher body mass in relation to the amount of arsenic consumed. But for babies and young children the ratio of arsenic intake to body mass actually does pose a significant health risk.
Nowadays with many babies and children being allergic or intolerant to cows milk and soy products, they are put onto rice based baby formulas and foods and therefore their intake of rice products is a lot higher than that of most adults.
What Is Arsenic
Arsenic is found naturally in many food products and in water, as it naturally occurs in rocks and sediment. This type of arsenic is called ‘organic arsenic’ and to date, scientist do not believe that this type of arsenic poses a major problem to our health.
It is the ‘inorganic arsenic’ which is formed from coal burning, copper smelting and the processing of mineral ores, that is the major and very serious problem. It seems we humans have once again inadvertently poisoned ourselves. Inorganic arsenic is also a common component in pesticides and fungicides, wood treatment chemicals, fire retardants and more.
This type of inorganic arsenic that we produce, use and then wash away, remains in our soils, rivers and oceans and therefore as rice is grown in water-logged rice paddies and is especially adept at retaining arsenic, the world now has this problem on its hands.
It is this ‘inorgnaic arsenic’ that is extremely toxic and a known carcinogen. The Committee of Toxicology of Chemicals in Food (COT) in the UK compiled a report on inorganic arsenic in rice and issued this statement “inorganic arsenic is genotoxic and a known human carcinogen and therefore exposure should be as low as is reasonably practicable (ALARP).”
A report and study done in the U.K by the Food Standards Agency, is probably the best information I have found to date. It explains in easy to understand terms the problem and how it occurs and the difference between organic and inorganic arsenic, it also has done a comprehensive study of arsenic levels available rice milks and rice products in the U.K .
I have included this list of links to various articles that address the many problematic areas of Arsenic in Rice
An article published by Dartmount about arsenic in rice syrup–
Brown Rice Syrup is the biggest worry, as it contains the most concentrated amounts of Arsenic and is used commonly as a sweetener in baby formulas.– see study findings here.
A study of 200 pregnant women showed that with higher rice consumption they had elevated levels of arsenic in their urine.
I also did my own personal investigation and contacted the company of the organic brand of puffed rice that I buy here in Australia from health food shops. This puffed brown rice is actually made in the USA and this is the reply I received which did nothing to ease my concerns,
USA Rice Products High In Arsenic
Thank you for your comments on Nature’s Path Organic Crispy Rice. We take each comment seriously and we endeavor to always provide a good quality product. Nature’s Path is committed to producing quality organic foods, using the best ingredients available, while adhering to strict quality control procedures.
We share your concerns about arsenic levels in food and hold the health and well-being as an utmost priority. We are working with industry partners and experts to better understand this issue and put it into context given that there are no set standards for food; and scientists have not reached a consensus at this point. Individual test results will not be meaningful until studied in the greater context. The concerns around levels of arsenic in rice is a very complex issue where even governments do not have clear answers as evidenced by the lack of established legal levels for food. The organic rice industry is voluntarily providing data points to a collective database to help further the FDA’s study of this issue. We are working to help establish new testing protocols and promote further research. We will continue, as always, to provide our customers with the highest quality food held to the strictest standards possible. We work with experts to ensure that our products comply with all standards, now and in the future.
Lowering Our Exposure To Arsenic In Rice Products
Firstly take a deep breath, I know I had to, what’s done is done, from now on in make the changes needed to ensure your family are no longer exposed to hazardous levels of arsenic in rice.
Unlike the US, the Food Standard Code for Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) do have a permitted level of Arsenic allowed in foods for Australian and New Zealand companies. They don’t mention rice per say, but do say they monitor all foods and arsenic levels are within acceptable limits.
This information is very general and doesn’t address the issue directly of rice and arsenic, or the concerns regarding that of babies and children and the levels of arsenic they consume in relation to their size and also the fact they they may consume far more rice in the form of milks and cereals etc..
Tips for Reducing Your Exposure To Arsenic In Rice Products
- Don’t make rice milk your children’s standard daily milk drink. After the age of 2 purified water should suffice, if they are getting a nutrient, rich, healthy and balanced diet. For a treat you can make them a freshly squeezed organic fruit juice, or a smoothie using organic soy, oat, or if not allergic, one of the various organic nut milks available e.g almond.
- If your baby is on formula and allergic to cows milk and soy, there are some other options besides rice milk that can be used, but it is important that only a doctor, or pediatrician make this change over in formulas.
- Swap rice syrup as a sweetener in your baking with either organic maple syrup, organic raw sugar or organic coconut palm sugar. Too much of any sugar is not great for us, so limit the amounts you use.
- Although brown rice is healthier from a nutritional value, it does contain significantly higher levels of arsenic than white rice. This is due to the fact that arsenic concentrates in the outer layer of rice bran. So if you want to eat rice, choose organic white rice and don’t eat it every day. Also it seems that where your rice is grown makes a notable difference, with Himalayan, (N. India, N. Pakistan, and Nepal) rice having the lowest levels of arsenic and US, EU and As-groundwater impacted Bangladesh rice having the highest.
- If you currently eat a lot of rice, swap it over, or at least vary it with another healthy grain, such as the nutrient and protein rich, Quinoa. If you eat rice try to get Australian grown organic rice.
- Do not take Rice Bran, these are the outer shavings of the brown rice grain, so contain the highest levels of arsenic. Read this article by New Scientist on Arsenic in rice.
This report by WEB MD offers some insight on how to view and address this problem
Below you will see the responses I got from both Freedom Foods and Pureharvest, both very reputable and honest companies that make some wonderful health products, including organic rice milk and rice bran syrup. They were both very helpful and happy to give me the below information.
PUREHARVEST Tests Arsenic Levels In Their Rice Products
Following our telephone conversation of today, please find the documents as promised.
1. The test report for the Total Arsenic levels in the Rice Syrup product.
2. The Australia / New Zealand Food Standards Code (FSANZ) the deals with permitted levels of Arsenic in food.
Michael Ockerse, our Quality Assurance Manager has provided the following information:
The news articles that are currently being referenced –organic-industry-addresses-arsenic-organic-baby-formula-brown-rice refer to the American FDA regulation of 10ppb of Inorganic Arsenic in drinking water. This would equate to 0.010 ppm (or mg/kg) of inorganic arsenic (note this is not the same as total arsenic).
The FSANZ standard 1.4.1 permits a level for Cereals of 1 mg/kg (ppm) of Total Arsenic. As can be seen from the test report provided, our rice syrup has a level of <0.040 mg/kg (ppm) of Total Arsenic (note the less than, this is the detection limit for the specific test used to detect the arsenic in this case, so the actual levels are less than this), so is well below the maximum permitted levels stated in the code. The American FDA do not have any standards set for Arsenic in food or beverages, and are in general many years behind Australia and New Zealand in the development and implementation of Food Safety systems.
Please contact me again if I can be of further assistance.
Customer Service & Business Support
Ceres Natural Foods P/L
Trading as Pureharvest
FREEDOM FOODS Reply Regarding Arsenic In Rice
I contacted Freedom Food about their Australia’s Own Rice Milk and Arsenic residue and they didn’t know much about the problem of Arsenic in Rice Products, but are looking further into it. They did however email me this report.
“Our AO Rice Organic Milk complies with Food Standard Code for Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) 1.4.1 (for the maximum residue amount of arsenic allowed in rice) therefore our product is safe to consume.”