The recent report from consumer watchdog Consumer Reports about arsenic levels in rice is” troubling and worrisome, but not for the reasons you may think”, says a leading dietitian.
Writing in the International Food Information Council (IFIC) blog last week, Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA, said the report simply “provides groups of foods and levels of arsenic without adequate context or significant correlation to a health risk.
“Arsenic levels are measured in parts per billion (ppb). Imagine this:1ppb is equal to a droplet of water in an Olympic –sized swimming pool. That’s how low these levels are.”
He said: “During more than 25 years of clinical practice, I have never seen any of my patients become ill or suffer a health condition due to the arsenic in food, not even foods that consumers eat on a daily basis…
“Here’s what you can do. Nothing. According to the FDA, don’t change your diet and in fact continue to eat a balanced diet rich in grains such as rice and remember to make half your plate fruits and vegetables.”
Individuals who consume foods like rice have lower rates of cancer
A registered dietitian who was part of the team that developed the NuVal nutrition scoring system, Dr Ayoob is an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
He added: “It’s unfair to single out one compound in food, especially when these foods contribute to a healthful diet overall. Research indicates individuals who consume foods like 100% fruit juice and rice actually have lower rates of cancer.”
Arsenic has always been present at low levels in a number of plant based foods, said Dr Ayoob, adding that it would be impossible to eliminate all arsenic from the food supply.
“Until a time when FDA changes its recommendations, there appears to be no need to change your diet based on these recent findings and most importantly, there is no need to worry.”
FDA: Preparing a more detailed report by the end of the year
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering new standards for the levels of arsenic in rice but said last week that it does not have enough evidence yet to do so.
However, it has released preliminary data on arsenic levels in rice and rice products ahead of a more detailed report by the end of the year.
The USA Rice Federation, which represents rice growers and industry, said the report did not add “meaningfully to the public discourse about this important issue.
“Instead, the article is incomplete and inaccurate on many levels: it employs an ‘arsenic content standard’ that simply doesn’t exist in federal law.
“It cites federal health data to allege health risk from arsenic ingestion when that data is based on arsenic excreted from, rather than absorbed by, the body.”
After testing more than 200 rice products (rice, cereals, crackers, flour etc), Consumer Reports said it found levels of total arsenic (organic and inorganic) far in excess of the federal limit of 10ppb for arsenic in drinking water.