what to do about
ARSENIC IN YOUR RICE
Gilbere is a health journalist and investigative reporter and
author of 11 books including I Was Poisoned by My Body,
Pain/Inflammation Matters, and Chemical Cuisine:
Do you Really Know What You're Eating. This report
first appeared in Total
major news agencies are reporting the latest warning about levels
of arsenic in a food staple for most of the world -- rice. I’ve
previously written blogs on this topic in order to particularly
warn mothers to limit the amount of rice fed to infants and
children. Now with another round of new findings and warnings,
it’s important we take note and learn some precautions
that could help reduce this carcinogenic toxic element in our
speaking, arsenic is a naturally-occurring element unavoidably
present everywhere in the environment for thousands of years
-- it's in air, water, rocks and soil, which is how all plant
foods, including rice, take it up, absorb it through its roots
regardless of whether the farming method is conventional or
organic. All plant foods unavoidably contain some level of arsenic.
are exposed to trace amounts of arsenic every day.
• Recent studies by Consumer Reports warn that
rice eaten just once a day can drive arsenic levels in the
human body up 44 percent: consumed twice a day can lead to
an increased concentration of arsenic that’s as high
as 70 percent.
• According to Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer
safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, "We
think that consumers ought to take steps to moderate their
• Consumer Reports tested many forms of rice
for arsenic -- cereal for babies and adults, brown and white
whole grain, pasta and drinks. More than 60 rice and rice
products were tested overall, including name brands. Many
contained what the researchers call "worrisome levels
of arsenic" -- some products had up to five times higher
levels than the arsenic previously found in oatmeal and one
and a half times more than the EPA's legal standard for drinking
DIFFERENCES IN SOIL LEVELS
differences in soil arsenic levels were identified by researchers.
Arsenic levels in white rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri
and Texas contain higher levels than rice samples from other
parts of the country. These four states account for 76 percent
of domestic rice produced.
arsenic is considered a level one carcinogen, linked to lung
and bladder cancer. On September 19, 2012, the FDA announced
it has concerns about rice and arsenic and is studying the issue,
meanwhile, recommending a varied diet. This “let’s
wait and see” attitude is fueling the fire of controversy
for consumers and reporting agencies who monitor our food supply.
Reports questions why safe standards are not already in
place when the facts have been identified. According to Rangan,
"Foods really shouldn't be any different. As we look at
the levels we're finding in these products there needs to be
a standard set for these foods. We called for standards on apple
juice in January; we're calling for that again in rice products
today." His concerns refer to a January investigation of
data released by the FDA of arsenic levels in apple and grape
you have any doubt that arsenic is toxic -- at any level --
below is a direct quote from the government’s own website
on its position:
occurs naturally in the environment as an element of the earth's
crust. Arsenic is combined with other elements such as oxygen,
chlorin, and sulfur to form inorganic arsenic compounds. Exposure
to higher-than-average levels of arsenic occurs mainly in workplaces,
near or in hazardous waste sites, and areas with high levels
naturally occurring in soil, rocks, and water. Exposure to high
levels of arsenic can cause death. Exposure to arsenic at low
levels for extended periods of time can cause a discoloration
of the skin and the appearance of small corns or warts.
a medical researcher-health detective, health professional,
mother and grandmother I ask, “If our regulatory agencies
acknowledge that low levels of exposure can cause outward manifestation
on the skin, isn’t it long over-due to study exactly what
it’s causing internally, including within the brain and
that of developing fetuses?
OR WHITE RICE?
care practitioners recommend eating brown rice products rather
than the carb-intense white rice for overall better health,
especially those consumers limiting their carbs because of diabetes,
yeast over-growth and other immune disorders. That said, when
it comes to arsenic-containing foods, the less nutritional and
higher in glycemic index white rice is actually healthier than
the brown variety. Why? Because toxic levels of arsenic are
most prevalent in the outer layers of the grain and white rice
is polished, removing some of those layers.
MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
to Consumer Reports, consumption of rice products (whether
organic or conventional) should be limited to one serving a
day, especially for babies and those with compromised immunity.
can, however, do your part to remove as much arsenic as possible
by implementing the following:
rice several times and cook in fresh water. I personally believe
that the rinse water should contain some 3% hydrogen peroxide
(H2O2) I use for all vegetables to assist in removing residue
Add ¼ cup to water for rinsing any rice. Allow rice
to sit in water mixture for about 15-20 minutes then rinse
thoroughly several times before cooking.
For other vegetables, I use ½ cup H2O2 in a sink-full
of water and soak veggies about 15 minutes and then rinse
thoroughly several times in cold water.
• Boil rice in a 6 to 1 water ratio which is said to
remove approximately 30 percent of its arsenic content. Note:
Reports are not clear as to how this cooking method affects
cooking time but it does necessitate discarding excess fluid.
reports caution that children under the age of 5 should not
be given rice drinks or rice snacks as part of their daily diet.
"We're not saying never eat rice products, we’re
saying its consumption should be very infrequent," stated
Michael Hansen, senior scientist on the Consumer Reports
no products were named in the report, Nestle, the parent company
of Gerber, said in an unsolicited statement to ABC News, "All
Gerber products are safe to consume, including Gerber rice cereal
and Gerber SmartNourish organic brown rice cereal." They
specifically added that although they monitor arsenic levels,
consumer concern led them to "exclusively use California
rice in the production of our rice-containing infant nutrition
products because California rice has the lowest naturally-occurring
arsenic levels for rice grown in the United States." The
USA rice federation does not dispute the findings, but says
the results are overblown since there is no documented evidence
of actual illness linked to rice. Sound familiar?
to experts, rice contains more arsenic than other grains because
it is grown while submerged in water. Arsenic does appear naturally
in the earth, but Consumer Reports says levels have
been increased by use of arsenic-laced fertilizers. Consumer
Reports' scientists explain that arsenic is fed to chickens,
turkey, and pigs, and their manure is used as fertilizer for
rice and other crops.
legal widespread use of arsenic through so many forms introduces
it into our environment, our food supply and eventually into
our bodies. It is beyond comprehension why our agencies whose
responsibilities are to protect us still allow a “little
bit of carcinogenic poison” to enter our food chain. Poison
aforementioned report follows a February Dartmouth report that
found organic products containing brown rice syrup could also
contain high arsenic levels.
United States has established federal limits for arsenic in
drinking water at 10 parts per billion (ppb). However, when
it comes to monitoring arsenic levels in most foods, it has
not set limits.
is naturally present in water, air, food and soil in two forms,
organic and inorganic. According to the FDA, organic arsenic
passes through the body quickly and is essentially harmless.
Inorganic arsenic -- the type found in some pesticides and insecticides
-- can be toxic and may pose a cancer risk if consumed at high
levels or over a long period.
FDA's analysis showed average levels of 3.5 to 6.7 micrograms
of inorganic arsenic per serving, while Consumer Reports found
levels up to 8.7 micrograms. The FDA released 200 samples, while
Consumer Reports tested 223.
is deadly at high doses -- a known carcinogen linked to a
variety of human cancers, including skin, lung and bladder,
as well as heart disease and other illnesses.
arsenic is believed to be far less harmful, but two organic
forms measured -- called DMA and MMA -- are classified as possible
carcinogens, according to Consumer Reports.
is a major source of arsenic in the American diet. Beside being
found in rice, it can be found in fruits, vegetables and seafood.
Reports' rice tests included multiple samples of more than
60 products, including white and brown rice, infant rice cereals,
rice crackers, rice pasta and rice drinks. The group said it
found varying but measurable amounts of total arsenic -- both
inorganic and organic forms -- in samples of almost every product
is almost impossible to say how dangerous these levels are without
a benchmark from the federal government. Consumer Reports
uses New Jersey's drinking water standard -- a maximum of 5
micrograms in a liter of water -- as comparison because it is
one of the strictest in the country. But it is unclear how accurate
it is to compare arsenic levels in water and arsenic levels
in rice. Most people consume more water than rice, so drinking
water standards may need to be much tougher in view of new findings
and concerns for long-term health risks.
much organic and inorganic arsenic rice eaters are consuming,
and whether those levels are dangerous, remains to be seen.
I know one thing; I’ve limited my rice consumption and
I’m using a lot of H2O2.
thing I emphasize a great deal in consulting with clients is
to constantly rotate the foods and supplements they consume
because everything in life requires balance in order for our
body to perform at its best. What I am advising is that we look
closer at a balanced diet. Health Thrugh Education© is
what I teach and practice. Armed with the knowledge of foods
that have potential toxicity, you can choose how much exposure
you’re willing to subject you and your family to.
have known for decades that arsenic is present in rice, but
the issue has renewed interest as consumers are more interested
than ever in what they eat, and that technology has advanced
to the point that inorganic and organic arsenic can be measured