Arsenic in Rice: What Every Parent Needs to Know (NEWS ALERT!)
|September 20, 2012||Posted by Stacy under Food safety|
In case you missed yesterday’s news, a new analysis from Consumer Reports has found “worrisome” levels of arsenic, a known human carcinogen, in many rice products, including organic ones. If your kids regularly eat some form of rice (as mine do), you may find this news alarming. Sadly, my very favorite Lundberg organic short-grain brown rice–which we typically eat once or twice a week–has been implicated, as have some baby formulas, organic rice baby cereals, rice breakfast cereals, white rice and brown rice syrup.
Here are a few details from the Consumer Reports study that I’m still trying to wrap my head around:
- Arsenic levels were higher in brown rice than in white rice for every single brand of rice tested.
- White rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas (where about 76 percent of domestic rice is produced) generally had the highest levels of both total and inorganic arsenic.
- After consuming rice, people had blood arsenic levels that were 44 percent greater than those who had not.
(Click here to view the actual test results and find out how much arsenic is in your favorite brand.)
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), several studies have linked arsenic to skin cancer and cancer of the liver, bladder, and lungs. Experts are especially concerned about the effect it could have on children. The CDC says here is some evidence that exposure in utero and during early childhood may lead to a shorter life span and long-term exposure may result in lower IQ scores.
O.K., deep breath. (This reminds me: I really need to start doing yoga again.) I am not trying to get everyone worked up. There’s a perfectly good chance all our kids will be just fine, despite the fact that they nosh on burritos and drink rice milk. But no question, it is something we should pay attention to.
The main problem lies in the fact that arsenic (in the form of a drug called roxarsone) is added to the feed of many conventionally raised chickens. Arsenic helps control a common intestinal parasite that can infect chickens and also helps give chicken breasts a pink hue (which is apparently attractive to consumers). The arsenic not only gets into the chicken meat but also ground soil and irrigation water. What’s more, chicken litter from poultry farms is often used as a fertilizer on organic poultry farms. Call it a most unfortunate trickle-down effect.
Until the Food and Drug Administration bans arsenic in chicken feed (which wouldn’t eliminate all the arsenic in chickens and the environment, but would help a lot), Consumer Reports recommends limiting your and your child’s intake of rice products–including infant rice cereals, ready-to-eat cereals, rice drinks, rice cakes, rice crackers, and plain old rice–to once a day or less. (See the helpful infographic below for specifics on how much of what you should have.). And follow these tips:
Check the label Consider buying rice produced in states other than Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas.
Switch your cereal Try bran flakes, oatmeal or corn grits instead of rice cereals like Rice Krispies.
Skip the apple juice Limit your child’s consumption of other foods that may be loaded with arsenic, including apple and grape juices. (And you may want to watch your vino intake, too. I told you this was BAD news!).
Are you worried about arsenic in rice? If so, what do you plan to do about it? Is there another grain that your family enjoys? Please leave your comments in the space below.
More must-read stories on School Bites:
- Confessions of a former food pusher (and why you should never bribe your kid to eat broccoli!)
- Please don’t call me a Food Nazi–I just want my kids to eat well at school!
- Smart Snack of the Week: Greek Frozen Yogurt Popsicles