After researching the health effects of arsenic and inorganic arsenic found in rice, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that levels found in tested samples are too low to pose immediate health damage. The FDA has also determined that long term health consequences are unknown and must be further studied.
According to a consumer update released last week, the agency looked at more than 1,300 samples of rice and rice products. They were tested for total arsenic and inorganic arsenic, the more toxic form.
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 range and brown rice at the high end. A microgram is one-millionth of a gram. In rice products, the average levels of inorganic arsenic ranged from 0.1 to 6.6 micrograms per serving, with infant formula at the low end range and rice pasta at the high end.
Because rice is a food that people eat over the course of a lifetime, the FDA is now determined to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment.
“These are the next steps. To look at exposure levels to analyze the risk, and determine how to minimize that risk for the overall safety of consumers, including vulnerable groups like children and pregnant women,” said Suzanne C. Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., the senior advisor for toxicology in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Arsenic is a poisonous substance, which is found in the Earth’s crust, but is also released from human activities like fuel burning, mining and the use of arsenic in pesticides.
"One of the things we need to emphasize is that arsenic is a naturally occurring contaminant, and because it's in soil and water, it's going to get into food," says Fitzpatrick. "It's not something that we can just pull off the market."
All of the information gathered in this study will be gathered for further research and a risk assessment. The research is expected to take months.