It's a little unsettling to hear that arsenic — the chemical prominently featured in both rat poison and murder-mystery television — is found in one of our "we thought it was healthy" staples: rice. Last year, Consumer Reports made HUGE waves with some in-depth reporting on over 1,300 common American rice products. They found troubling levels of arsenic in many of these foods — and following the report, the FDA promised to do its own investigation.
Well, the results are now in and the FDA reports that there is in fact arsenic in many rice products grown here in the U.S. They say these chemicals aren't cause for concern — but how can we be sure?
Essentially, the FDA is saying, "Yes, there is arsenic in your rice. But it's not enough to cause short-term damage or effects." Okay, well we're not keeling over right and left after our curry-over-rice dinners, so we already knew the levels of arsenic weren't poisoning us immediately. What about the long-term effects?
Those haven't yet been studied in-depth, but enough is known about the effects of arsenic on animals that a strict 10 parts per billion standard has been imposed on drinking water. There can only be 10 arsenic molecules per billion water molecules. Any more than that is thought to be harmful.
So, how much arsenic is in our rice? For example, the FDA found 160 parts per billion in brown rice and 120 per billion in infant rice cereal. Is this cause for concern? You'll have to decide for yourself. Low-grade exposure to some chemicals is unfortunately inevitable, but it seems wise to avoid eating too much rice until we know more about the long-term health effects of arsenic.
In terms of reducing the amount of arsenic you take in from contaminated rice, unfortunately there's not a whole lot you can do. You can cook your rice in excess water, then pour it off, as some of the arsenic will be "washed off." You can also eat white rice instead of brown — though it's less nutritionally dense, arsenic levels for brown rice are higher than those in white. But one thing is clear: It's a sad day for rice-lovers. (Wired)
Photo: Via Wired.