F.D.A.: No action needed yet on arsenic in rice

by Staff
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WASHINGTON — Despite concerns about arsenic levels in rice and rice products, so far the Food and Drug Administration has not found enough scientific data to recommend changes to consumers in regard to consumption of such products.

The conclusion is based on the first set of 200 samples out of about 1,200 samples of rice and rice products in the marketplace.  The data collection is expected to be complete by the end of 2012. The F.D.A. statement comes after the publication of a Consumer Reports article saying there is a need for federal standards for arsenic levels and recommending limiting rice consumption.

“We understand consumers are concerned about this matter,” said Margaret A. Hamburg, F.D.A. commissioner. “That’s why the F.D.A. has prioritized analyzing arsenic levels in rice. The F.D.A. is committed to ensuring we understand the extent to which substances such as arsenic are present in our foods, what risks they may pose, whether these risks can be minimized and to sharing what we know. Our advice right now is consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains — not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food.”

There are two types of arsenic compounds — organic and inorganic. The F.D.A.’s findings show average levels of inorganic arsenic for rice and rice products to be 3.5 to 6.7 micrograms per serving.

“Rice is a nutritious food and an important part of a healthy diet,” the U.S.A. Rice Federation said. “Rice contains more than 15 vitamins and minerals that help protect against disease and ensure healthy growth during pregnancy and childhood. We are aware of concerns about the level of arsenic in food, but are not aware of any established studies directly connecting rice consumption and adverse health effects. In fact, populations with high rice consumption are associated with less overall disease rates and with better health, and scientific studies show that people who eat rice have healthier diets.”

The U.S.A. Rice Federation also said the Consumer Reports article is incomplete and inaccurate and says it offers consumption advice without addressing all of the relevant health issues.

“It’s critical to not get ahead of the science,” said Michael Taylor, F.D.A. deputy commissioner. “The F.D.A.’s ongoing data collection and other assessments will give us a solid scientific basis for determining what action levels and/or steps are needed to reduce exposure to arsenic in rice and rice products.”
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