WASHINGTON — The level of arsenic found in rice and rice products is too low to cause immediate health damage, according to FDA researchers.
The agency tested more than 1,300 samples for total arsenic and inorganic arsenic, the more toxic form. Both contaminants are naturally occurring.
“Because it’s in soil and water, it’s going to get in food,” explained Suzanne C. Fitzpatrick, the senior advisor for toxicology in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in a statement. “It’s not something that we can just pull off the market.”
In the rice grains, the average levels of inorganic arsenic ranged from 2.6 to 7.2 micrograms per serving, with instant rice at the low end and brown rice at the high end. In rice products, average levels ranged from 0.1 to 6.6 micrograms per serving, with infant formula at the low end and rice pasta at the high end.
The agency plans to assess the long-term effects of rice consumption and determine how to minimize any risk to consumers, including groups like children and pregnant women, according to Fitzpatrick.
In the meantime, FDA advises consumers, including pregnant women, to eat a well-balanced diet and avoid consuming an excess of any one food. It recommends that parents feed their infants and toddlers a variety of grains.
The FDA’s analysis was prompted by a request from Consumer Reports to adopt standards for rice and rice products that take into account rice consumption levels, especially those of at-risk populations.
Last year, Consumer Reports conducted its own analysis that found varying levels of arsenic in more than 60 rice and rice products.
Read more: Consumer Reports to FDA: Set Arsenic Limits
“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.
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