Multiple news outlets are reporting “worrisome levels” of arsenic have been found in rice. According to a study by Consumer Reports magazine, rice eaten just once a day can drive arsenic levels in the human body up 44 percent. Rice eaten twice a day can lead to a 70 percent increase in arsenic.
"We think that consumers ought to take steps to moderate their consumption," Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, said of the study.
Consumer Reports magazine, the publication that conducted the study, reportedly tested many forms of rice for arsenic, from cereal for babies and adults, to brown and white whole grain, pasta and drinks. According to the report, more than 60 rice and rice products were tested overall, including name brands.
The magazine refers to the amount of arsenic discovered as "worrisome levels of arsenic." The article goes on to add that some products had up to five times higher levels than the arsenic found in oatmeal and one and a half times more than the EPA's legal standard for drinking water.
Relationships between areas where the rice had been grown and levels of arsenic were also discovered by the researchers with white rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas, containing higher levels than rice samples from other parts of the country. According to the report, those four states account for 76 percent of domestic rice produced.
"Good Morning America" reported that inorganic arsenic is considered a level one carcinogen, linked to lung and bladder cancer. As a result, the FDA is expected to announce on Wednesday that it has concerns about rice and arsenic and is studying the issue; in the meantime, the FDA recommends a varied diet.
"Foods really shouldn't be any different, and as we look at the levels we're finding in these products there needs to be a standard set for these foods already," Rangan said in the report. "We called for that on apple juice in January; we're calling for that again in rice products today."
Rangan was referring to a January investigation of data released by the FDA of arsenic levels in apple and grape juice.
Consumer Reports is suggesting that people limit one serving of rice a day, especially for younger children.
Rinsing and then boiling rice in a 6-to-1 water ratio removes about 30 percent of its arsenic. They also caution that children under the age of 5 should not be given rice drinks as part of their daily diet.
"We're not saying never do that," Michael Hansen, senior scientist on the Consumer Reports study, said. "We're saying it should be very infrequent."
ABC News reported that 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.
"These are very, very low levels," James R. Coughlin, president and founder of Coughlin & Associates, an independent toxicology consulting company for the USA Rice Federation, told the news outlet. "Rice is a safe and nutritious food and in fact people who consume rice more frequently in their diets are actually healthier than other Americans."
But according to experts, rice contains more arsenic than other grains, because it is grown while submerged in water. While arsenic does appear naturally in the earth, Consumer Reports said the levels have been increased by use of arsenic-laced fertilizer.
Researchers who conducted the study suggested that arsenic is fed to chickens, turkey and pigs, and their manure is used as fertilizer for rice and other crops.
"All of those uses introduce arsenic into our environment, into our food supply, and we essentially are doing a lot of things to ourselves that deliberately introduce arsenic into food supply," Rangan said.