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Thursday, Mar. 5, 2015

Arsenic in rice: What it means?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Consumer Reports Magazine included a study on arsenic in their November 2012 edition. The headline is ?Arsenic in your food. Our findings show a real need for federal standards for this toxin. This article can be found here http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magaz....

Since that time, I have seen several news reports and a KAIT video segment regarding this report. In addition, the Delta Farm Press has had coverage. I have also seen responses from the Food and Drug Administration and the USA Rice Federation.

ABC news followed up on this report with their ?Arsenic in Rice: New Report Finds 'Worrisome Levels?. The gist of the Consumer Report article is that they think that the FDA should establish limits for arsenic in rice and fruit juices. What this means is that at some point in the future more and more foods will be tested for arsenic.

The timing of this report just happens to be during harvest season in the United States. The KAIT 8 report can be found at http://www.kait8.com/story/19589613/arse.... This report shares interesting perspectives from farmers and a medical doctor. However, the market bounced back. I checked with our Southeastern Regional Agriculture Business Specialist David Reinbott who thinks that the report had a negligible impact. The drop in price reflects a slightly negative USDA estimate of more rice being produced. Se we will need to wait for a trend to see if there is any impact.

According to the Consumer Reports article, ?People who ate rice had arsenic levels that were 44 percent greater than those who had not, according to our analysis of federal health data. And certain ethnic groups were more highly affected, including Mexicans, other Hispanics, and a broad category that includes Asians.? Based on this report, they are urging parents to limit the consumption of rice for infants.

However, the Food and Drug Administration has issued the following statement, "It is critical to not get ahead of the science," said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor, in a prepared statement. "The FDA's ongoing data collection and other assessments will give us a solid scientific basis for determining what action levels and/or other steps are needed to reduce exposure to arsenic in rice and rice products."

"We understand that consumers are concerned about this matter. That's why the FDA has prioritized analyzing arsenic levels in rice. The FDA is committed to ensuring that we understand the extent to which substances such as arsenic are present in our foods, what risks they may pose, whether these risks can be minimized, and to sharing what we know," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains ? not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food."

The USA Rice Federation also issued a statement. We understand that ?arsenic? is an alarming word, but we believe it is important for consumers to know that arsenic is a naturally occurring element in our air, water, rocks and soil. This is how plants uptake arsenic.ˇ As a result, it?s always been in the food supply and is in many healthy foods that are consumed by billions of people every day.ˇ No arsenical pesticides are used when growing U.S. rice.

Rice is a nutritious food and an important part of a healthy diet.ˇ Rice contains more than 15 vitamins and minerals that help protect against disease and ensure healthy growth during pregnancy and childhood. We are aware of concerns about the level of arsenic in food, but are not aware of any established studies directly connecting rice consumption and adverse health effects.ˇ In fact, populations with high rice consumption are associated with less overall disease rates and with better health, and scientific studies show that people who eat rice have healthier diets. ˇThe entire statement is found here, http://www.usarice.com/index.php?option=....

Dr. Frank LoVecchio, a medical toxicologist at Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center, in Phoenix Arizona also thinks that the Consumers Report article overstates the case. He said arsenic can be found in almost everything, including the dust particles we breathe in daily, but the levels are well below the threshold of what's considered safe. He says there is no way to link arsenic exposure at these levels to an increased risk of developing cancer in the future. That coincides with the FDA's saying there is no evidence suggesting rice is unsafe to eat. The bottom line, according to LoVecchio, is that rice does not pose a major health concern, despite the findings and recommendations expressed by Consumer Reports. This interview can be found at http://www.usarice.com/index.php?option=....

Just a few days after this report was issued, Chemical and Engineering News, reported about a study done in Sardinia, Italy. The summary and citation are provided. Compared with continuously flooding rice fields, watering fields with sprinklers results in rice with around one-fiftieth as much arsenic, according to researchers in Sardinia, Italy (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es300636d).

Dr. Gene Stevens at the MU Delta Center has been experimenting with sprinkler irrigated rice in Missouri and South Africa and hopefully he will have samples to compare. In the meantime, I will continue to consume all of the brown rice that I can

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