Arsenic… Again!

– Rachael Green Bilello, MD

It seems the infamous Arsenic has made headlines again. Earlier this week, the FDA announced some preliminary data regarding arsenic found in rice. But don’t clean out your cupboards just yet! Based on this preliminary data and current scientific literature, the FDA does NOT recommend changing your consumption of rice and rice products. Though it DOES recommend we eat a balanced diet containing a wide variety of grains, a great idea!

The FDA has been monitoring the levels of arsenic (amongst other potentially harmful substances) in foods and beverages for more than 20 years. The levels were reported, in micrograms (one millionth of a gram), of different rice products including rice, rice cakes, rice cereal, rice beverages and Basmati rice. This data is part of an ongoing study to be completed by the end of the year analyzing about 1200 samples of the rice and rice products commonly consumed.

Arsenic is a chemical element found throughout our environment. It is released from volcanoes and from the erosion of mineral deposits, and is distributed in the earth’s crust. Arsenic is also deposited into the environment through pesticides, herbicides and by burning coal, oil, gasoline and wood. It is found in the air, water and soil, thus affecting our food and beverages. The current amounts found in our rice and rice products are not scientifically proven significant enough to cut these products out of our diets.

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