Nov 192014







This information was taken from a US publication on the subject.

People are growing increasingly concerned about reports of high arsenic levels in our country’s rice. Consumer Reports issued a report this week that warned of arsenic levels at “worrisome” levels and the FDA confirmed that their own tests have found levels consistent with those of Consumer Reports.

I warned about high arsenic levels in rice products such as infant cereal, organic brown rice syrup, cereal bars and rice milk last February when Dartmouth College found alarming levels of arsenic in some of these products.

In that study, researchers reported that one organic infant formula contained arsenic levels that were six times higher than legal arsenic levels for drinking water.

Why is arsenic in our rice?

In order to keep yourself safe from arsenic in rice products, it’s important to know how it’s getting there.

Simply put, arsenic is a toxin that persists in the soil for a very long time and it’s in some of our country’s soils because of these factors:

  • The use of arsenic-containing pesticides in the past. Much of the rice in the southern states is grown on land once used to grow cotton, which was doused with arsenic-containing pesticides for years. Arsenic remains for decades, long past the three years it takes to officially convert land to an organic status.
  • The use of arsenic in chicken feed, which remains in the manure that is used to fertilize crops.
  • Proximity to coal-burning power plants.
  • Contamination from arsenic-treated lumber. This lumber is now banned in the U.S. but is still widely present as mulch.
  • Arsenic-contaminated water used to flood the crops.
  • Naturally occurring levels (to a much smaller extent).

Rice is especially effective at soaking up toxins because of the way it’s grown, in water-flooded conditions. Some varieties of rice are also thought to be more likely to absorb arsenic.

This is an excellent example of why it makes sense to buy organic products even when we’re not consuming them. All of those years that cotton was grown with heavy amounts of toxic pesticides led to poison soil that is now growing our nation’s baby food. This is also a reminder of why it’s so important to move away from coal-burning power plants (which also pollute our lakes with mercury and more) and to make common-sense safety decisions when it comes to what we feed livestock and put in our environment.

So what can you do to protect your family’s

? There are lots of steps you can take, and you do not have to give up ever eating rice again.

Here’s how to minimize the amount of arsenic you consume and keep your family safe:

  • Rinse rice thoroughly before cooking, and then boil rice with extra water to be poured off after cooking. This reduces about 30% of the arsenic in the rice. Aim for six cups of water per one cup of rice.
  • Avoid rice grown in the south central states, such as Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. These states were once cotton states and have shown significantly higher arsenic levels. California rice was tested at 41% lower arsenic levels than rice from these states.
  • Purchase other types of rice such as Basmati rice from countries that have tested much lower arsenic levels than the U.S., such as Nepal, India and Pakistan. Rice from Egypt was found to have the lowest arsenic levels of those tested.
  • Eat white rice as well as brown. While brown rice is generally healthier than white rice, more of the arsenic is stored in the outer hull. Consumer Reports has stated that arsenic concentrations found in the bran that is removed in milling can be 10 to 20 times higher than levels found in bulk rice.
  • Limit your servings of rice and rice products to no more than one per day at a maximum. Be mindful of how many products contain rice, such as rice cereals, rice cakes and gluten-free pasta and bread products. If your family is gluten-free, this is a good time to start experimenting with other food choices and alternative flours like almond flour, coconut flour and garfava flour.
  • Alternate your rice with other grains. Good substitutions are wild rice (which is not actually rice and is not currently an arsenic concern), quinoa and millet. You can also go grain-free for some meals each week and rely instead on foods such as spaghetti squash, zucchini strip “pasta” and cauliflower “rice.” Check paleo blogs and web sites for lots of recipes like these.
  • Avoid rice cereal for your baby. Feed a variety of age appropriate, unprocessed foods instead.
  • Do not serve rice milk as a primary beverage for your children. Aim instead for a wide variety of beverages and lots of filtered water.
  • Aim to serve mostly whole foods instead of packaged foods. This is generally good advice anyway!
  • Check ingredients for rice syrup and look for products that don’t list it near the top of ingredients. Organic brown rice cereal is a common sweetener in organic and natural foods.
  • Limit your family’s consumption of apple and grape juices. These have also been found to be high in arsenic (especially from other countries like China, who still use arsenic as pesticide).
  • If you have a private well for water, test it for arsenic levels. You can find information here on testing and treating your water for arsenic.
  • Purchase organic chicken if your family eats meat. Federal standards prohibit using chicken feed containing arsenic. Conventional chicken is often high in arsenic.
  • Breastfeed your baby instead of offering infant formula. Organic infant formulas often contain brown rice syrup as a sweetener.
  • Write your legislators and ask for federal limits of arsenic in foods. Consumer Reports has an online form to help.
  • See this chart to find out the arsenic levels in many brands of rice and foods tested by Consumer Reports.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.