F.D.A. sees no short-term effects of arsenic in rice

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON — The amount of detectable arsenic is too low in rice and rice product samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration to cause any immediate or short-term adverse health effects, the F.D.A. reported Sept. 6. The F.D.A. next will consider long-term exposure to “very low amounts” of arsenic in rice and rice products.

The F.D.A. tested for the presence of arsenic in about 1,300 samples of rice and rice products, which included about 200 samples that the F.D.A. initially tested and released findings for in September 2012. The F.D.A. on Sept. 6, 2013, advised consumers, including pregnant women, infants and children, to eat a well-balanced diet for good nutrition and to minimize potential adverse consequences from consuming an excess of any one food.

“The F.D.A. has been monitoring arsenic levels in rice for more than 20 years and has seen no evidence of change in levels of total arsenic in rice,” the agency said. “We now have tools that provide greater specificity about the different types of arsenic present in foods.”

According to the F.D.A., arsenic is present as a naturally occurring substance or as a result of contamination from human activity. It may be found in water, air, soil and foods. Arsenic in food may be present as inorganic (the most toxic form) or organic. The approximately 1,300 samples tested included such types of rice grain as white, jasmine and basmati and such rice products as infant and toddler cereals, pasta, grain-based bars, snacks, cookies, pastries, desserts, puddings, and beverages.

Among the rice grains, the average levels of inorganic arsenic ranged from 2.6 to 7.2 micrograms per serving. Brown rice was at the high end of the range, and instant rice was at the low end.

Among the rice products, the average levels of inorganic arsenic ranged from 0.1 to 6.6 micrograms per serving. Rice pasta was at the high end. Infant formula was at the low end.

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