Poison Rice? 6 Steps to Limit Arsenic Exposure

It’s one thing to learn that there’s arsenic in rice. It’s quite another to learn that there's arsenic in your baby’s formula or your toddler’s cereal.It’s one thing to learn that there’s arsenic in rice. It’s quite another to learn that there’s arsenic in your baby’s formula or your toddler’s cereal.

In 2012, Consumer Reports studied rice and products that use rice syrup as a sweetener—and found that many brands contain more arsenic in a single serving than what the EPA allows in a daily allotment of drinking water.

Exposure to high levels of arsenic can be carcinogenic; the substance is a neurotoxin that affects brain development in young children, especially.

The magazine analyzed federal data and found that those populations which consume rice regularly—such as Asians and Latinos—have arsenic levels that are 44 percent higher than other groups. They also found that rice produced in the Southern states retain higher levels of arsenic than that which is produced in California or Asia.

This followed an earlier study that found high levels of arsenic in apple and grape juice, in which 10 percent of samples had arsenic levels that exceeded drinking water standards.

These levels aren’t poisonous in the traditional sense; arsenic is a chemical element, a naturally occurring substance that’s found in our air, water and soil. But exposure to high levels of arsenic can be carcinogenic; the substance is a neurotoxin that affects brain development in young children, especially.

The FDA has not yet set a limit for arsenic in food. But, based on their findings, Consumer Reports recommends that children eat no more than eight serving a week of rice and rice products each week, and avoid rice drinks altogether.

So where does that leave the mom whose shopping list includes rice-based cereal and/or formula?

Babies who consume formula as their only source of food could be more at risk for exposure. Doctors reporting for ABC News recommended not buying formulas with rice syrup as the main ingredient.

However, in March 2012, Nature’s One announced that they had implemented new technology that eliminated arsenic to undetectable levels in the organic brown rice syrup used in products like their Babys Only Organic Toddler Formula; their findings were corroborated by Consumer Reports.

In general, parents can reduce arsenic exposure by making sure the water their families drink (and what they mix with powdered formula) is arsenic-free. Check the Environmental Working Group’s National Drinking Water Database to find out if arsenic is a concern where you live, and how to filter it out if it is.

Here are some tips to remember:

1. Rinse rice thoroughly before cooking.
2. Check your water for arsenic, and filter if necessary.
3. Avoid rice syrup on ingredients lists.
4. Look for rice sourced in California or Asia.
5. Serve children rice and rice products no more than eight times per week.
6. Limit fruit juices.

Finally, a petition started by awesome eco-blogger Anna Hackman asks the FDA and the EU to institute strict guidelines regarding arsenic in rice. I signed it. Will you?

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Comments

  1. Girassol says:

    Oh no! I drink rice milk all the time… it is organic though, from Trader Joe’s. I wonder if it’s any better?

    • Rachel Sarnoff says:

      Try to see where the rice milk was sourced? California and Asia are better choices, if possible.

  2. How do I find the petition to sign it?

  3. As a whole food, vegan, brown rice devotee, I am deeply troubled by this information.
    However, I appreciate your tips for reducing arsenic exposure. I plan to sign the petition too.
    Thanks for this valuable post.

    • Rachel Sarnoff says:

      Thanks Deborah, I completely agree. I think you do not need to worry too much, but just try to make sure to look for rice and rice products made from rice grown in California or Asia, and try to avoid foods made with rice syrup and rice products where you don’t have any idea where it was grown. I hope this helps!

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