September 7, 2013 in Business

Citing broad study, FDA downplays danger of arsenic in rice

Mary Clare Jalonick Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration says consumers shouldn’t worry too much about levels of arsenic in rice – but should vary their diets just in case.

The agency released a study Friday of arsenic in 1,300 samples of rice and rice products, the largest study to date looking at the carcinogen’s presence in that grain. Consumer groups have pressured the FDA to set a standard for the amount of arsenic that can be present in rice products.

The study shows varying levels, with the most arsenic in brown rice and the least in instant rice. Infant cereal and infant rice formulas are also at the low end of the spectrum.

The FDA says the amounts are so small that rice is safe to eat and there isn’t any concern of immediate or short-term adverse health effects. But the agency said it is still studying the long-term effects of eating rice.

Rice is thought to have arsenic in higher levels than most other foods because it is grown in water on the ground, optimal conditions for the contaminant to be absorbed.

Arsenic is naturally present in water, air, food and soil in two forms, organic and inorganic. Organic arsenic passes through the body quickly and is essentially harmless. Inorganic arsenic can be toxic and may pose a cancer risk if consumed at high levels or over a long period.

The FDA is looking into how much organic and inorganic arsenic rice eaters are consuming and whether those levels are dangerous.

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