FDA: Arsenic in rice safe in short term, long-term risk unknown

By Maggie Hennessy

- Last updated on GMT

FDA: Arsenic in rice safe in short term, long-term risk unknown

Related tags: Risk

The amount of detectable arsenic in rice and rice products is too low to pose any immediate health risks to consumers, according to new guidance issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

The findings, released on Sept. 6, tested roughly 1,300 samples of rice and rice products for the presence of inorganic arsenic. The results include the 200 samples of rice and rice products that the FDA initially tested and reported on in September 2012​.

The agency is using this information to examine whether the levels of arsenic in rice pose long-term health risks. Because rice plants absorb more arsenic than most other crops, the FDA has been monitoring the levels in rice (and other foods) for decades.

Consumer watchdog Consumer Report applauded the FDA’s efforts in a statement. 

“We’re particularly pleased that while the FDA conducts a risk assessment and takes appropriate next steps, it is giving advice to consumers, especially the most vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and children, that will help limit their arsenic exposure,”​ said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, in the statement.

The group initially called on the FDA to adopt standards for rice consumption last September, after its own analysis of arsenic levels in more than 60 rice and rice products.

“In some cases, the levels found by the (FDA) were higher than ours,”​ Rangan said in the statement. “This was true in the case of rice beverages used as milk replacement, which underscores Consumer Reports’ advice that children under the age of 5 should not have rice drinks as part of a daily diet…because of arsenic concerns.”​ 

Arsenic in rice has become a hot topic in the news in recent weeks, as consumers have voiced concerns over the effects of exposure to the carcinogen on the public, particularly children. 
“As a mother I can imagine that many of you are asking yourself, ‘Should I be feeding it to my children?’,”​ wrote Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, on the FDA Voice blog. “Our best advice—consistent with that given by the American Academy of Pediatrics—is to eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of grains.”

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