Medic: I have never seen any of my patients become ill due to arsenic in food

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Dr Ayoob: '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'
Dr Ayoob: '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'
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.



Related topics: R&D, Food safety

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Integrative and Functional Education Specialist

Posted by Elizabeth Redmond, PhD, MMSc, RD,,

Dr. Ayoob,
I think you may be missing people’s concerns. People don’t like to eat toxins if they don’t have to. Avoiding rice with arsenic is not an inconvenience for most people, there are alternatives, such as rice grown in a low-arsenic region or another food grain alternative. The Department of Health and Human Services and the EPA have determined that inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that inorganic arsenic is carcinogenic to humans. So if I can avoid eating arsenic or serving it to my children, I will. I already buy organic produce and high-fat animal foods such as cheese or butter, since many toxins are fat-souluble and accumulate in high-fat foods. There are easy solutions to avoid exposure to toxicants.
I understand your sentiment about not panicking, and that all foods have some toxins so you can’t just exclude a food every time you hear a negative report. However, there is significant research that toxic load is certainly related to diet intake, especially in children. The CHAMACOS study in CA looked at the effects of pesticides in mothers and children. They found that prenatal urinary organophosphate concentrations were associated with poorer intellectual development, and that organophosphate concentrations in the study were within the range of levels measured in the general U.S. population. They also noted that most maternal rganophosphate exposure probably occurs through the diet.1 According to the National Academy of Sciences the major source of exposure to pesticides for infants and children is diet.2
Furthermore, it would be difficult to substantiate your statement about not ever seeing a patient become ill due to arsenic in food. You mean not that you know of, based on what you are defining as symptoms of arsenic exposure, which are likely the classic signs of occupational exposure. I am assuming you don’t test your patients, or the food that they eat.

While what you are saying may be a good public health statement until more is known, it makes people frustrated when scientists or health professionals don’t do their research or are not forthcoming with the full science. Additionally, your explanation of ppb (basically implying “it’s really small; don’t worry about it”) seems to be significantly lacking.

Food is the primary route of exposure of many toxicants, and often small changes may make a big difference.

1. Bouchard MF, Chevrier J, Harley KG, et al. Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and IQ in 7‐year old children. Environ Health Perspect. Apr 21 2011.
2. US National Research Council, Committee on Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1993

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Not useful article

Posted by DJ,

This is probably one of the more useless articles you have had on your website. It does not give any meaningful information, just one persons opinion. We want real info that will help us decide what to do about rice in our foods and those we feed our pets. We want to know if the benefits of eating rice outweigh any potential harm to us. No more feel good fluff articles, please. Just the facts.

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