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Thursday, September 26, 2013

FDA Looks for Answers Related to Arsenic in Rice

FDA Looks for Answers Related to Arsenic In Rice

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors hundreds of foods and beverages that make up the average American diet. The agency looks for substances that could be harmful to consumers, including industrial chemicals, heavy metals, pesticide residues and radiation contamination.

Those dietary staples include rice and rice products, foods that FDA has specifically tested for the presence of inorganic arsenic, a chemical that under some circumstances has been associated with long-term health effects.

The agency has analyzed nearly 200 samples of rice and rice products and is collecting about 1,000 more. Since rice is processed into many products, these samples include rice products such as cereals, rice beverages and rice cakes.

Arsenic levels can vary greatly from sample to sample, even within the same product. FDA’s testing of the initial samples found these average levels of inorganic arsenic in micrograms (one millionth of a gram):

• Rice (other than Basmati rice): 6.7 per 1 cup (cooked)
• Rice cakes: 5.4 per 2 cakes
• Rice beverages: 3.8 per 240 ml (some samples not tested for inorganic arsenic)
• Rice cereals: 3.5 per 1 cup
• Basmati rice: 3.5 per 1 cup cooked

Based on data and scientific literature available now, FDA is not recommending that consumers change their consumption of rice and rice products at this time, but that people eat a balanced diet containing a wide variety of grains.

Data collection is the critical first step in assessing long-term health risks and minimizing those risks. Once FDA has completed its analysis of about 1,200 rice products, the agency will analyze these results and determine whether or not to issue additional recommendations.

Arsenic is a chemical element distributed in the Earth’s crust. It is released from volcanoes and from the erosion of mineral deposits. It is found throughout the environment—in water, air and soil. For that reason, it is inevitably found in some foods and beverages. Human activities also add arsenic to the environment. They include burning coal, oil, gasoline and wood, mining, and the use of arsenic compounds as pesticides, herbicides and wood preservatives.

FDA has been monitoring arsenic levels in rice for more than 20 years. Its analysis thus far does not show any evidence of a change in total arsenic levels. The change is that researchers are better able to measure whether those levels represent more or less toxic forms of arsenic.

Source: Food and Drug Administration, September 19, 2012

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