Report: 'Worrisome' levels of arsenic in rice
September 19th, 2012
03:37 PM ET

Report: 'Worrisome' levels of arsenic in rice

Eating rice once a day can increase arsenic levels in the body by at least 44%, according to a new study from Consumer Reports.

The study surveyed more than 60 different rice products ranging from infant cereals to rice pasta and rice drinks and found “worrisome” levels of inorganic arsenic in most of the products. Others suggest, however, the levels are not cause for concern.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, inorganic arsenic has been linked to liver, bladder, and lung cancer.

Urvashi Rangan, Consumer Reports lead scientist on the study, said the study isn’t meant to scare people from eating rice, rather “our investigation of arsenic in rice is supposed to inform consumers.”

Rangan said, “We wanted to help consumers at least be able to take action for themselves in terms of moderating themselves. We asked the government to set standards.”

The Consumer Reports study found that white rice had lower levels of arsenic compared to brown rice, and that rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas, generally had higher levels of arsenic.

Currently, there are no federal standards for arsenic levels in food, but the Environmental Protection Agency has a federal standard for arsenic in drinking water. New Jersey has even more stringent standards, allowing just half the amount of arsenic allowed by the EPA.

Almost 40% of the products tested exceeded the New Jersey limits, but all were in line with federal limits for drinking water.

But "the levels are low," said Jim Coughlin, an independent toxicologist who has consulted for the USA Rice Federation in the past. "If we're going to eat, there's going to be arsenic in all our foods. It's found in fruits, vegetables and grains, and rice falls in the category. You've got to eat, and I think rice is a safe and nutritious food."

“Rice has always been considered a nutritious food and an important part of a healthy diet," the USA Rice Federation said in a statement. "We’ve been made aware of concerns about the level of arsenic in rice, but are not aware of any established studies directly connecting rice consumption and adverse health effects.”

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday released preliminary results of arsenic levels in more than 200 rice and rice sample products. The agency said it expects to finish collecting and analyzing more than 1,200 samples by the end of the year. Once the samples are analyzed and completed, the FDA will determine if additional recommendations are needed.

Currently, the sample levels of arsenic the FDA found are in line with what the Consumer Reports study found.

“Based on the currently available data and scientific literature, the FDA does not have an adequate scientific basis to recommend changes by consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products," the agency said in a statement.

However, the Consumer Reports study recommended people eat no more than two servings of a quarter-cup of dry rice a week.

For children under 5, the group advised against drinking rice drinks as part of their daily diet. They also recommended no more than one serving of infant rice cereal a day for babies.

Dr. Frank Greer, a pediatrician and former chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics nutrition committee, said that the data on arsenic in food is limited. “Yes, the numbers are concerning. But we don’t really know what arsenic means when it's in food ... it’s present in all foods. This includes organic fruits and vegetables."

However, he suggested that concerned parents follow the Consumer Reports suggestions. “No mother wants to take any chance with an infant. So if she feels that way about it, and Consumer Reports is all we have, I think that’s what she should follow.”

soundoff (293 Responses)
  1. Fed Up

    Geesh. If it is not one thing it is another. Next month rice will be OK. Back and forth we go, and a lot of us follow along and stop doing or eating whatever because of the latest study. Let's see, though. Most of the population on this planet eats rice at least once a day and has been doing so for centuries. Studies done on diet and health for the past 50 years show that an Asian diet (the real one, not the Westernized one) show people with few medical problems and living long lives. I am SO tired of my tax dollars wasted on idiotic, and most likely skewed, tests. And, if in fact rice is now tainted, how did it get that way? Just use common sense and be smart about what you ingest and ignore all of these useless reports.

    September 19, 2012 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • I'm Hungry

      I agree. Let's you and me get a grant to study exactly how useless studies are.

      September 19, 2012 at 21:04 | Report abuse |
    • Piranha

      I agree...well said.

      September 19, 2012 at 21:09 | Report abuse |
    • jr

      You are tired of your tax dollars being wasted on idiotic tests? Was this a government funded test? Did you bother checking?

      September 19, 2012 at 21:10 | Report abuse |
    • Ed Sr of Dallas Tx

      They meant RICE dammit....not LICE!

      September 19, 2012 at 22:17 | Report abuse |
    • Bill in Florida

      The rice eaten in most of the world is grown locally. Our rice is grown along the Gulf of Mexico, in the heart of the oil-refining region. There may be a connection.

      September 19, 2012 at 22:23 | Report abuse |
    • Marsha

      You couldn't have said it any better.

      September 19, 2012 at 22:33 | Report abuse |
    • Fed Up

      Sorry. My bad...I should have pulled my head out of my a** when i first read the article...the very first sentence states that the study was done by the Consumer Reports magazine...not by a government agency...yes...I'm a first class idiot :p

      September 19, 2012 at 23:08 | Report abuse |
    • mdmann

      For those of you doing this reactionary nonsense and saying that "scientific studies" are to be ended because the results are sometimes not clear, you really need to get a clue.

      First, the scientist who conducted the study said QUITE CLEARLY that this information was not intended to encourage people to change any habits. It was simply meant to inform. Now, because you don't understand science, you don't know how to react when these studies are conducted. THAT ISN'T THE FAULT OF SCIENCE. That's your own fault. You want to throw the baby out with the bath water because you don't understand what the baby is.

      Second, I'd like to know which of the many modern day conveniences you are willing to give up as a result of your CLEAR CONTEMPT for science. Just about everything you take for granted in your life is made possible by the scientific studies you apparently find so abhorrent. So, are you ready to go back to the Stone Age? It seems your minds are already there.

      These people are trying to provide you with information! Stop being hypocrites, and stop acting like such dillettantes!

      September 20, 2012 at 02:47 | Report abuse |
  2. Amy

    Sounds like propaganda to convince people to go back to drinking milk.

    September 19, 2012 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ObamaDogmeat

      Bingo. And wheat.

      September 19, 2012 at 21:51 | Report abuse |
  3. Penny Nickels

    Mr. Wong down at the Chinese buffet is already threatening to sue Consumer Reports.

    September 19, 2012 at 21:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rice Eater

      Why don't go back to counting your pennies ?

      September 19, 2012 at 22:38 | Report abuse |
  4. Penny Nickels

    Oh no! Does this mean I have to stop drinking sake?

    September 19, 2012 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rice Eater

      Nope, you can have mine !

      September 19, 2012 at 22:26 | Report abuse |
  5. Maxwell Stiel

    Feels once again like the media stirring up some sort of half story, that later will be better investigated and probably result in rice being perfectly nutritious, but no one will write about that as you don't get to scare the public into reading that article. Sadly what should be done, is if there was some concern, report it to the FDA, give them sometime to test further, evaluate the results and then make either a statement or recommendations so that the public is well served. Blabbing this on the morning show is more about ratings. That media ... they love to scare us. Think I'll go have some rice now.

    September 19, 2012 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Geewiz

    I guess by their statistics, eating rice twice a day would be a sure death....

    Yeah right, tell that to the g0oks living in Okinawa.

    September 19, 2012 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James

      Thats because they eat short grain rice, not the Uncle Ben junk that rednecks eat.

      September 19, 2012 at 21:54 | Report abuse |
    • Bill in Florida

      I reported you, racist.

      September 19, 2012 at 22:24 | Report abuse |
    • McJesus

      Probably religious, uses racist terms to denigrate an entire population, then claims humans are all created by god in his so-called image. Smart. Real smart. This would undoubtedly make one a racist and a hypocrite.

      September 19, 2012 at 23:57 | Report abuse |
  7. Super tired of BS

    Eating rice is dangerous? NO. What it is dangerous is all the junk is added to any food nowadays. We just have to look at the ingredients in package and what they add to all fresh products. Then, we see higher incidence of everything from cancers to strange maladies, that doctors say they might be a virus, without a culprit or a cause. Enough is enough.

    September 19, 2012 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • fritz

      I avoid things like margarine in tubs that have a long paragraph of ingredients with chemicals I can barely pronounce. I buy just plain butter in sticks with only two ingredients 'cream and salt'. Same with everything else. At least I know what cholesterol is and how to make it less sticky on the arteries.

      September 20, 2012 at 03:04 | Report abuse |
  8. Cool Mum

    "it’s present in all foods. This includes organic fruits and vegetables." if so, then why this article only focuses on rice as a bad food? shall we eat anything? we are doomed:( or not?!

    September 19, 2012 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. PuzzledInPeoria

    Rice and Old Lace.

    September 19, 2012 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kevin

      Ha ha ha ha...Archibald Leach would be so proud!

      September 19, 2012 at 23:37 | Report abuse |
  10. Freelance

    Next study indicates that wheat has high levels of inorganic lead in them.

    September 19, 2012 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rice Eater

      A study undertaken by University of California indicates that the level of Uranium/Plutonium and other radioactive minerals is pretty high as part of the farm products in New Mexico, Nevada, Western Arizona and a few parts of Central California.

      September 19, 2012 at 22:33 | Report abuse |
  11. Rice Eater

    Did you ever watch Andrew on the Travel channel, wonder why he is alive after eating all kinds of JUNK ?

    September 19, 2012 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. 66Biker

    Here's an idea... How about if the government stopped wasting money on all of these falsified studies (that are little more than scare tactics) and make a few payments on the National Debt?

    September 19, 2012 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rice Eater

      National DEBT from when ?

      September 19, 2012 at 22:35 | Report abuse |
    • sumbahdee

      The government didn't fund this study, and even if it did, I highly doubt scientific studies make up the majority of the National Debt.

      September 19, 2012 at 23:54 | Report abuse |
    • caldy

      Another great republican mantra – lets cut funding for science. Only I'll bet you're quite happy to use all the drugs, like penicillin, that have come from the "black hole" of science. Anyway, please feel free to cut them out and prove me wrong. We can all learn something from your experiment, and it wont cost the taxpayer a dime!

      September 20, 2012 at 01:46 | Report abuse |
  13. Brian

    What about imported rice? I see a lot of rice from Thailand in the store.

    September 19, 2012 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rice Eater

      Its OK to buy imported rice from other countries !

      September 19, 2012 at 22:40 | Report abuse |
  14. smdahl

    MONSANTO strikes again. Notice that they say INORGANIC rice is the problem…MonSatan Corporation needs to be milled and ground into finest powder along with their fellow satan worshippers Cargill, ADM etc. And the people of the world are going to do it, mark my words.

    September 19, 2012 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. dd

    Now let's look at the obvious. Some cultures eat rice twice every day. These cultures (Asia) have longer life spans than Americans who don't eat that much rice. What we really need is a story showing the obvious conflict of facts. This story said "may". The world says with 99% confidence that the answer is no. So why was this reported? Are journalists really that stupid without even a simple grasp of the obvious? More likely this story fit into: sensationalism, sex, violence, hate, or falsehoods. The media always reports those.

    September 19, 2012 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. tim

    Last week, it was eggs, now rice. Next week it will be something else we've all been eating for years.

    September 19, 2012 at 23:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Ed Pokorski

    We have had oil shortages, toilet paper shortage and most of all,"COMMON SENSE SHORTAGE!!!!"

    September 19, 2012 at 23:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. McJesus

    Quick! Rush out and chow down government subsidized GM corn! Rice is bad!

    September 19, 2012 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. GrandOldPatsy

    Just be afraid of everything.

    September 20, 2012 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. indep100

    Sounds like tuna on rice is the dish of the week.

    September 20, 2012 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. indep100

    what about rice chex or rice krispies?

    September 20, 2012 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. ScottCA

    We will all be left drinking water and too afraid to eat anything if we listen to these reports. The key is moderation, we all know it, eat small meals frequently and everything in moderation, too much of anything can be harmful.

    September 20, 2012 at 00:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. vondavis51

    "...the FDA does not have an adequate scientific basis to recommend changes...". Yeah. That's what the FDA said about the Chicken Jerky Dog Treats Made In China, too...

    September 20, 2012 at 02:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Tracy

    So the rough rice seems to be the stuff grown by the American Gulf Coast... Why gee, Thanks BP!!! Might it have to do with that corexit stuff you guys sprayed everywhere? I haven't eaten gulf shrimp in 2 years.

    September 20, 2012 at 03:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Just eat it already!!

    OK, so when it comes right down to it, all foods are dangerous to some extent. So the solution is to stop eating them. Hmmm, so the typical consumer will stop eating rice, or reduce their consumption of it based of one study reported here. If they only could see that if they are truely concerned about how dangerous food really is, then they would stop eating all together...yea that takes care of it, stop eating!! Wait....that does not work either, you'll starve to death. Oh dang! Choices choices. You can either not eat anything and stay safe, but starve to death, or you can eat, and take your chances that you will actually live to see a full fruitful life and never die of what all these warnings are warning you of!!

    September 20, 2012 at 03:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. JON

    So the population control has begun....

    September 20, 2012 at 04:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JON

      Think that statement on population control was silly? Then why did the FDA try to gain control over e-cigs? If it wasn't for the courts FDA would be forcing people not to try the safer alternative to smoking

      September 20, 2012 at 04:44 | Report abuse |
  27. JeffinIL

    Apparently, adding tuna will make it deadly (reference to tuna/mercury article).

    September 20, 2012 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. irma jay

    Is the fear of eating rice that it may kill you? Guess what, we're all going to die anyway and we don't have that date on our calendar.

    September 21, 2012 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Bill Brown

    Take all this tainted rice and feed it to the starving children in the world that are forced to live on an organic diet. Then I am sure a large percentage of them will be able to live a very long life that will take the place of the 0.001 percent that will die in the rest of the world....that is if birth control, overpopulation, war, pestilence and famine are not doing their thing!

    September 22, 2012 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 25, 2012 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Rick G.

    Why don't we just call it like it is.... North American food sucks. Its all contaminated and full of crap hence one in three north Americans getting cancer.
    People scoff science only because they are scared of the truth, which is we are screwing ourselves over. So instead of taking a stand on the environment, we vent on here and accuse scientists of mega plots and conspiracy theories. Wake up people!!

    October 3, 2012 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Coleen Bendit

    Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice. It is named after the town of Arborio, in the Po Valley, where it is grown. When cooked, the rounded grains are firm, creamy, and chewy, due to its higher amylopectin starch content;[1] thus, it has a starchy taste but blends well with other flavours. It is used to make risotto, although Carnaroli, Maratelli and Vialone Nano are sometimes used to prepare the dish. Arborio rice is also used for rice pudding.*

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