Arsenic in Rice: Levels are Safe, According to FDA


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The FDA is receiving criticism after releasing a report stating that the inorganic arsenic level found in rice is too low to cause any short-terms risks. According to the FDA, arsenic levels have been monitored for more than 20 years with no change in toxicity.

The report comes after Consumer Reports released a study in August 2012 about arsenic levels in rice, juice and cereals. Consumer Reports pointed out that the FDA hasn't set any limits on arsenic levels for food, and that arsenic exposure is higher than previously thought.

Arsenic is "a naturally occurring element," according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and is found in the soil. Arsenic is found in two forms--inorganic and organic. The FDA maintains that organic arsenic is harmless, while inorganic arsenic has the potential be dangerous. Not only can inorganic arsenic cause cancer, it can also cause gastrointestinal and fertility issues. The FDA tested rice and a number of other foods in its study and said that inorganic arsenic levels won't cause any health problems--for now, at least.

While the FDA was quick to point out that they found no short-term health risks in eating foods with low levels of arsenic, they haven't yet published what the possible long-term effects are, something the agency says it plans to study. "We must take one step at a time and stay true to our methodological approach," says Michael R. Taylor, J.D., deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. "We can't get ahead of the science." For the time being, the FDA has proposed arsenic limits for apple juice.

Considering that the FDA has received a lot of flak for not being straightforward about some of the ingredients found in food, many consumers were dissatisfied with the FDA's study:

One concerned mom started a petition on asking the FDA to put arsenic limits into place. So far, the petition has almost 7,000 supporters.

Image via Wikimedia Commons