So There's Arsenic In My Rice… What Can I Do About It?

Earlier today, we told you about the Consumer Reports study that found varying levels of inorganic arsenic — a known carcinogen — in a wide variety of rice products. Since so many of us chow down on rice in some form on a regular basis, should we be worried?

“The goal of our report is to inform—not alarm—consumers about the importance of reducing arsenic exposure and offer actions they can take moving forward, such as limiting their rice consumption,” said Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., Director of Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.

And while CR is asking various federal agencies to set limits on the amount of arsenic tolerated in the foods we eat, you can choose to limit how much rice you consume each week just to be safe.

The below chart, taken from the November issue of Consumer Reports, shows how much of any of the given rice products you can eat or drink without possibly exposing yourself to high levels of arsenic.

Note that the recommended numbers are based on the assumption that you’re only eating one rice product during the specified time frame. So if you’re someone who likes eating a lot of rice — or a variety of rice products — your risk of exposure would likely be increased.

For people who overdo it on the rice in one week, they can balance their system out by cutting back on rice the next.

Consumer Reports’ review of federal health data found that people who ate rice had arsenic levels that were at least 44% greater than those who had not.

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  1. STXJK says:

    2 servings a week of rice? That’s not very much for people who eat rice as regular dietary components of their meals. As mentioned in the other post on this, why aren’t more people dying of arsenic poisoning (or suffering health effects) who are heavy rice eaters? I now consider cutting back our consumption of rice (which wasn’t that high to start with) but this really seems like a major dietary restriction for some.

    • STXJK says:

      Or is this only for consuming rice products that were in the “high” range on the report?

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      Yes – it says in the chart above that a serving is 1/4 cup of dry rice. Not very much at all. That’s only 1/2 cup of dried rice per week!

    • guaporico says:

      The amount of arsenic in the rice is extremely low, it would be very difficult for anyone to get arsenic poisoning from eating rice regularly. This is an attempt to regulate the amount of arsenic in foods (which is a good thing) by being somewhat alarmist.

      The amount of arsenic given in these articles is the recommended lower limit, and are very far from what would be required for any kind of poisoning.

      Look up pesticides and how much you eat in your food if you want to start worrying about what you eat. :P

      • George4478 says:

        >>by being somewhat alarmist.

        But the chart has red numbers! RED NUMBERS! Don’t you know what that means? It means RED NUMBERS and they’re bad!

  2. shepd says:

    Since we just had the previous story about bad pet food from China, I thought it might be interesting to y’all that China is the only country that regulates the maximum amount of Arsenic in rice–it is regulated to 150 ppb. In the US rice averages 260 ppb.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arsenic_poisoning#Food

    In other words, search for rice made in China for safer food. :)

    • Applekid says:

      Well, sure, the high arsenic stuff is what they export to the US.

    • perruptor says:

      My understanding is that much of the rice grown in the U.S. is grown on land that used to be used to produce cotton. The cotton farmers used arsenic to control boll weevils, and it hasn’t all gone away.

      Here’s a link to a report on arsenic in U.S. rice:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1892142/

      • NewsMuncher says:

        Arkansas is the #1 rice producer in the country. The rice fields are so pretty, kind of like the reverse image of the cranberry fields of Oregon. Not sure how much rice AR produces, but it’s quite a bit.

    • Red_Eye says:

      Umm, no, because if it was made in china and they exported it here it could be because the arsenic levels were too high to serve in China.

    • Banished to the Corner says:

      Um…fake certificates and ‘offical’ Chinese government inspections.

      Remember the melamine poisoning of baby milk a few years ago. Well, companies that went bankrupt and had the tainted dried milk products were allowed to sell their inventories if it had a health certificate. A few months later, while living in HK, I read about a second round of contaminated baby formula; this time the gov’t, while knowing about it, had not announced it because of worry about panic.

      Faked certificates, very common.

      Then, of course, you can get your product tested, if it fails you just bribe the officials and voila! it passes.

      • shepd says:

        There is plenty of cronyism to go around. The difference is in the US rather than just paying outright for a faked certificate, most businesses choose to go the long way round and buddy up with the right government officials.

        I remember the melamine poisoning. I remember that since then there have been at least 3 times as many scares of deadly listeria poisoning from tainted meat in Canada. Considering my country is so darn small (population wise), there is absolutely no way we should have more problems than China. We should have FAR fewer before it’s fair to compare.

        Faked certificates happen often enough in the USA and Canada, though. Think that cheap item with a UL/CSA/ETL/TUV/CE sticker on it really passed approval? You might be surprised…

  3. TuxthePenguin says:

    Is this based again on the NJ regulation? What health impacts would there be, long term, if I had five services of rice per week? Would having 10ppb be a huge health risk (that’s what it is for drinking/tap water)? 20ppb? 50ppb?

    At what point, short-term and long-term, does it become an issue? Nowhere in the release does it state either of those things. And that last quote? Do those who eat rice show a higher proclivity for any ailments? Could that arsenic come from other source (such as the tap water most usually boil it in)?

    • George4478 says:

      If I’m reading the chart right, the ability to use the scary, red numbers only occurs when comparing to the New Jersey water standard of 5ppb. If they compare to the federal standard of 10ppb, NO products tested high, so there would be no story.

  4. highfructosepornsyrup says:

    but…
    “When looking at the geographic origins of the rice products, CR found that white rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas generally had higher levels of total arsenic and inorganic arsenic than rice samples from elsewhere (India, Thailand and California combined).” Right?

    So… just eat imported rice rather than that dirty American stuff!

  5. EP2012 says:

    I eat at least two servings a day… I’m totally screwed.

  6. Banished to the Corner says:

    I don’t have children myself, but I have lots and lots of nieces and nephews.

    When we grew up, my mother didn’t feed us baby cereal, but cream of wheat. I know a box of this is expensive, but not nearly as expensive as baby cereal and it’s incredibly high in iron. I started eating it again about 2 years ago when one of my brothers was diagnosed with cancer and I helped care for him. He asked for cream of wheat and was able to keep it down, his doctor said it’s a great food and much better than almost any other breakfast cereal out there (doctor like oatmeal too).

  7. mazterjedi says:

    How about NO arsenic at all?

    • benminer says:

      Arsenic is an element and occurs naturally. It’s not like somebody is deliberately putting it in the rice. Literally removing every single molecule from every batch of rice is is not as easy as it sounds.

      Fun Fact: Anthrax occurs naturally and is commonly inhaled by grazing animals.

    • unpolloloco says:

      How? I’d be willing to bet that even if you produced hydroponic rice in a sterile environment with deionized water (an insanely expensive proposition!), you’d still end up with a few molecules of arsenic (probably in the parts per trillion range).

  8. Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged says:

    Does this apply to all types of rice? (Brown rice, basmati rice, wild rice, etc) or just white rice and rice products?

    • STXJK says:

      There’s a link on the other story (in the comments) to the study results. It is all types of rice and rice products, brown included. A couple of the worst are organic brown rices, yikes!

  9. donjumpsuit says:

    We went through this before with Arsenic and Apple Juice. Arsenic has an organic and inorganic equivalent. The organic form is harmless, while the inorganic form is problematic. So when everyone screams ARSENIC! make sure to ask if it’s dimethylarsinic acid, monomethylarsinic acid, chromated copper arsenate, a crystalline oxidate, calcium arsenate, lead hydrogen arsenate, arsenous acid, orpiment, relgar, arsenic pentaflouride, or arsenic trioxide.

    The point is ‘arsenic’ comes in many forms, and we have removal mechanisms in our bodies to deal with it.

  10. dave says:

    I will be glad to read the november issue on arsenic in rice. Consumer reports did a excellent job of reporting on arsenic in apple juice. I eat approximately 5 to 6 cups of rice per week. But I rinse the rice at least 4 times mainly to remove the starch before cooking the rice in a rice cooker. I was wondering if you rinse the rice does it remove the arsenic?

    • STXJK says:

      It seems it is found inside of the rice grains themselves (picked up by the roots of the plant) since even processed goods contain arsenic?

    • Zowzers says:

      removing the starch? You do realize that nearly the entirety of a grain of rice is starch; its not just some dust sitting on the surface of the grain. And no, rinsing rice would not remove the arsenic either.

      If you’d like to experiment, grab some iodine, a potato, an onion and some rice. Slice the potato and with a different knife slice the onion (you don’t want to cross contaminate). Then put a few drops of iodine on the potato slice, the onion slice and the rice. Iodine reacts to starch; it turns purple. If there is no starch present it will stay brown. See which ones react to the iodine.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      No it won’t remove the arsenic, which the plant takes up from the roots, but by rinsing rice (white rice in the U.S. anyway), you are removing the vitamin fortification that is sprayed onto it.

  11. AEN says:

    Since water contains arsenic, maybe we should stop drinking it?

  12. Velifer says:

    How about we stop patronizing blogs and magazines that make up arbitrary limits and then use scare tactics?