Arsenic-Tainted Rice Safe to Eat, Says FDA

Arsenic levels found in rice products are safe to consume, says the FDA after conducting tests on 1,300 samples.

The FDA reviewed the rice samples after Consumer Reports found arsenic levels in many common food products including Rice Krispies and Gerber infant cereal and some less processed products too, reports Reuters. “The consumer watchdog group said some varieties of brown rice—including brands sold by Whole Foods Markets Inc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.—contained particularly significant levels of inorganic arsenic.” Consumer Reports urged the agency to conduct further testing after making the discovery in 2012.

Samples were tested from a variety of rice sources including whole brown rice and white rice, infant cereals, energy bars, cookies, pasta, pastries and even alcoholic beverages made with rice, but the FDA did not specify which brands were tested. On average, the inorganic arsenic, which is more dangerous than organic arsenic, ranged from 2.6 to 7.2 micrograms per serving of rice grains, according to Reuters. “Instant rice was at the low end of the range and brown rice came in at the high end.”

The low levels of arsenic don’t appear to pose any immediate health risks to consumers, the FDA concluded, but the agency is going to look at the effects of long-term exposure to arsenic.

Consumer Reports’ director of consumer safety and sustainability, Urvashi Rangan, said “It doesn’t mean consumers need to throw out all the rice in their cabinets, but they should be aware that the problem is important.”

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Image: Elena Karelova