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Consumer Reports: Worrisome arsenic found in rice

September 19, 2012 2:39:49 PM PDT
A Consumer Reports' investigation found troubling levels of arsenic in apple and grape juice a year ago.

Now, new tests by the organization have uncovered worrisome levels of arsenic in rice and in many products made from rice.

Rice is a staple in many people's diets. There's white rice, brown rice, rice cakes, crackers and cereal. Rice cereal is often a baby's first food.

But Consumer Reports' tests of 32 rices and dozens of rice products find all contained arsenic.

And lab tests show many of the samples had troubling levels of inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form.

"Inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen that has been linked to skin, lung, and bladder cancer," Consumer Reports' Andrea Rock said.

There are federal limits for the amount of arsenic allowed in drinking water, but none for rice and most other foods. Consumer Reports' investigation also found there was often more arsenic in brown rice than in white.

"We aren't able to draw conclusions about specific brands because our tests are limited," Rock said. "But the analysis we did of government data shows that for Americans who eat rice, it is a significant source of arsenic exposure."

The USA Rice Federation, an industry trade group, insists, "There is no documented evidence of actual adverse health effects from exposure to arsenic in U.S. grown rice."

"We already know that even low levels of arsenic exposure increase your risk of cancer and other health problems," Rock said. "We don't want to alarm people, but we do recommend that you limit the amount of rice that you eat."

And research shows that rinsing rice thoroughly and cooking it in lots of water as you do with pasta can reduce arsenic levels.

For babies, Consumer Reports recommends no more than a quarter-cup of rice cereal per day. And you can also substitute with oatmeal, wheat or corn cereal, which are lower in arsenic.

No doubt you are wondering what the source of arsenic is. While some can occur in nature, for years pesticides containing arsenic were used in agriculture. Most have been banned, but residues remain in the soil. And arsenic is still permitted in some pesticides, fertilizer and animal feed.

Consumer Reports' advocacy group is calling on the government to set limits on arsenic in food and ban its use in agriculture.

For more information on the CR investigation, please visit http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/11/arsenic-in-your-food/index.htm

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