Just last week, Consumer Reports published a report indicating high levels of arsenic were found in over 200 samples of rice products tested – from cereals like Rice Krispies to rice crackers to infant rice cereal. We eat a lot of rice in our home (stir fry over rice, Mexi Bowls, fried rice, etc) every week so the headline made me want to learn more about the safety of the food in my pantry. The food I feed my kids. Often.
Here’s the problem and where my personal concern comes from: our government hasn’t established a safe level of arsenic in foods but they have identified a level of 10 parts per billion (ppb) limit on the safety for drinking water. Some of the rice products tested by Consumer Reports contained traces of arsenic in the 150 – 250 ppb range. Sounds like a lot, right?
“There’s no question that one serving of a lot of the rice products that we looked at would give you 50 percent to 90 percent of what you would get from drinking a liter of water at the 10 ppb drinking water limit,” explains Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports.
That doesn’t settle well with me given the amount of rice we eat in our home. We’ve recently gone back to limiting the amount of gluten my son has and many of our best alternatives are rice based like brown rice pasta. Most of our dairy free choices are almond based but he news had me thinking about families who are dairy and gluten free – there’s likely a lot of rice ingested in those homes!
More upsetting findings from Consumer Reports are meaningful to me because we do eat a lot of rice, and mostly brown rice.
- Within any single brand of rice we tested, the average total and inorganic arsenic levels were always higher for brown rice than for white.
- People who ate rice had arsenic levels that were 44 percent greater than those who had not
Yes, high levels of arsenic in food have been linked to skin, lung and kidney cancers in studies, but I’m not ready to panic. And the government isn’t sounding the sirens or pulling rice products from the shelves.
While I’m confident that the cautionary messages would be significantly stronger if we were in grave danger, it still seems wise to take some precautionary steps to limit exposure and therefore potential danger from this human carcinogen. Here’s a few ways to minimize exposure in your home:
- Limit the amount of rice and rice products you eat or drink
- Introduce vegetables and fruit to babies who are ready for solids – babies do not need rice
- Rinse your rice well before cooking
- Use 6 parts water to 1 part rice when cooking rice at home and drain the unabsorbed water before serving
- Look to alternatives for rice like quinoa or almond milk
If you use brown rice syrup as a sugar replacement, know that researchers at Dartmouth Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center found particularly high amounts of arsenic in the samples tested and suggest alternatives.
It’s hard to keep up on the headlines and news about our food supply. It can even seem overwhelming at times. One day, eggs are bad for us and the next week we’re told to incorporate them into our diet. There’s so much to keep track of that some days it can feel like we’ll never keep up with the news, and therefore, not know whether we’re making the right choices for our family or not.
Fear not…knowledge is power. And now you know. Share this with a friend. I’ll do my best to sort through the news for you and let you know when there’s something important we need to know about.
Until then, no panicking!
Want more details on the research? You can read the full Consumer Reports article here, which includes a link to their findings as well.