Arsenic in Rice: Should We Be Concerned ?

The Federal Drug Administration recently found levels of inorganic arsenic in rice to be worrisome. This was further back up by tests done by Consumer Reports.

I have received many questions on that topic recently and I will answer them today:

What influences the levels of inorganic arsenic levels in rice?

Where it is being cultivating is the most important factor. For example in states where cotton is a major crop, the fields are sprayed with pesticides with a high inorganic arsenic levels. So rice from Missouri and Louisiana are likely to have about 4.4 mcg per serving. Meanwhile California rice samples tested to be about 2.5 mcg per serving.brown_rice

As a rule of thumb, organic brown rice typically have about 1.5 micrograms per serving. Which is far less than the “worrisome” levels found in the FDA and Consumer Reports data.

Please note that these results were on total arsenic content. Organic arsenic is naturally found in soils and is considered a trace mineral necessary for health. By contrast, inorganic arsenic is carcinogenic. And associates with cancers of the bladder, lungs, and skin. It also can potentiate heart problems.


What is the difference between organic and inorganic arsenic levels?

Organic arsenic is found already in the earth’s crust, while inorganic arsenic can be tested in soils that have been sprayed with arsenic-laden chemical pesticides, or watered with water readily laced with inorganic arsenic containing chemicals.arsenic

The truth of the matter is that the plant will take up both forms of arsenic. You should be concerned with the inorganic arsenic levels only.

The range of inorganic arsenic from total arsenic ranges from 22 to 42% depending on the sample tested. If it came from a US state where cotton is a major crop, then inorganic arsenic levels where higher. The pesticides associated with raising that crop explain this.

Bangladesh rice has the title for the worst rice to buy in terms of inorganic arsenic content.

What about rice containing products?

That should be a concern for people who use many gluten/dairy free products. For example, Dr. Andrew Meharg, professor of biogeochemistry at the University of Aberdeen, has found that 80 percent of rice milk samples exceed the safe levels of arsenic in drinking water as set by the EPA. Rice crackers, rice cakes, puffed rice cereal, rice bran and infant formulas show alarming levels of arsenic. Rice syrup used as a sweetener for many gluten free products is also tainted.

rice products

Steps to Lower Levels of Inorganic Arsenic.

  1. Rinse the rice before cooking it. Cooking rice in high quality water lowers the levels of inorganic arsenic.rinse
  2. In the US, buy organic rice from California. Lundberg farms from California appears to be one of the better choices. I have no association with this company so that we are clear.
  3. Basmati rice from India, and jasmine rice from Thailand are better options for imported rice, especially if certified organic.
  4. If you follow a diet rich in anti-oxidants, you can lower the levels of inorganic arsenic more efficiently.

Be Strong and Healthy,

Charles R Poliquin