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Concern over arsenic in rice

As part of an investigation of food products, a Consumer Reports analysis found that some rice products – organic baby rice cereal, rice breakfast cereal, brown rice and white rice – contain arsenic, many at worrisome levels. They found significant levels of inorganic arsenic, a carcinogen, in almost every product category, along with organic arsenic, which is less toxic but still of concern.

Arsenic can infiltrate soil or water due to the decomposition of minerals in the earth, but most of it is due to residues from insecticides, fertilizers and animal feed. Rice contributes 17 percent of dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic, behind fruits and fruit juices at 18 percent, and vegetables at 24 percent.

No federal limits have been set for arsenic in most foods. Rice farmers are seeking improvements in rice cultivation to lower arsenic levels, and nutrition experts report that rice, especially brown rice, is a wholesome food with many health benefits.

Eating a more varied diet and preparing rice by rinsing it first, using a higher proportion of cooking water, and draining off extra water after cooking may reduce arsenic exposure. – Environmental Nutrition Newsletter