The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the results of its study of 1,300 samples of rice and rice products Friday. The Agency determined the amount of detectable arsenic is too low to cause immediate or short-term negative health effects. It will begin a study of the long-term impact that may occur from a lifetime of eating rice. Consumer’s increasing awareness and interest in the safety of their food is extending beyond the typical touchstones for the Agency. The study also brings to light the increasing transparency consumer’s expect from brands and the pressure firms face in meeting that demand.
The study focused on a wide range of products. The FDA collected a total of more than 1,300 samples of rice and rice products and has tested them for both total arsenic and inorganic arsenic, the more toxic form. FDA scientists determined that the levels of inorganic arsenic found in the samples were “too low to cause immediate health damage.”
In the rice grains, the average levels of inorganic arsenic ranged from 2.6 to 7.2 micrograms per serving, with instant rice at the low end of the range and brown rice at the high end. In rice products, the average levels of inorganic arsenic ranged from 0.1 to 6.6 micrograms per serving, with infant formula at the low end of the range and rice pasta at the high end. (A microgram is one-millionth of a gram; serving sizes varied with the product types.)
The next step for the FDA will be to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment, explained Suzanne C. Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., the senior advisor for toxicology in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). This analysis of the health risk associated with eating rice and rice products will be the foundation of future FDA actions.
“These are the next steps. To look at exposure levels, to analyze the risk, and determine how to minimize that risk for the overall safety of consumers, including vulnerable groups like children and pregnant women,” says Fitzpatrick.
“We must take one step at a time and stay true to our methodological approach,” says Michael R. Taylor, J.D., deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “We can’t get ahead of the science.”
The agency’s review comes after Consumer Reports in 2012 urged the government to limit arsenic in rice after tests of more than 60 popular products — from Kellogg’s Rice Krispies to Gerber infant cereal — showed most contained some level of inorganic arsenic, a known human carcinogen. It also follows the Agency’s recent announcement on a study of arsenic in apple juice.
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