Arsenic & Rice (Part 2): Action Steps You Can Take Right NOW

Having read my first post (Arsenic & Rice: Why this Affects You & Your Family), you may wonder if there are steps you can take immediately to reduce you and your child’s arsenic intake. Yes, there is! The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did issue some advice for consumers, as they continue their investigation with a risk assessment to determine the potential health risk from long-term exposure to the arsenic in rice and related food products. The FDA provides the following guidance:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet. This enables good nutrition and reduces the negative health consequences from eating too much of any one food.
  • Vary your grains. Eat a variety of different grains besides rice like wheat, barley and oats.
  • Consider alternatives for an infant’s first solid food. Parents are encouraged to offer a variety of grain cereals to infants, which can be used as a first solid food instead of only rice cereals. This is in accordance with the view of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which states that there is no medical evidence that rice cereal has any advantage over other grains as a first solid food, and infants would likely benefit from eating a variety of grain cereals.

Consumer Reports, a consumer watchdog organization in the United States, echoes these recommendations above. To help increase the variety of grains consumed, Consumer Reports encourages consumption of lower arsenic alternatives such as buckwheat, amaranth, millet, bulgur, farro, quinoa, barley, polenta or grits (note that bulgur, barley and farro contain gluten).  In addition, they provide the following specific recommendations which are helpful:

  • Choose where your rice comes from. Choose white or brown Basmati rice from India, Pakistan, or California
  • Type and processing method of rice matters.
    • Sushi rice from the U.S. was found to have low levels of total inorganic arsenic.
    • Parboiled rice tends to have relatively high inorganic arsenic levels.
    • Quick or instant cooking white rice tends to have pretty low levels of inorganic arsenic.
  • Avoid/limit overconsumption of certain rice and rice products with relatively high average levels of inorganic arsenic, such as
    • Basmati rice grown in south-central U.S. (Arkansas and/or Texas) or rice that does not have any specific origin information other than ‘United States’.
    • Hot cereals, rice pastas, rice cakes, and some ready-to-eat rice bran cereals (see 7 Points a Week Guide section below).
  • Children should rarely eat hot rice cereals or rice pastas, and should avoid rice drinks. Note that rice drinks are often referred to as “rice milks”, and are marketed as a dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk.
  • 7 Points a Week Guide. Data is used to assign a point value to types of rice and other rice containing foods. Consumer Reports recommends on average not consuming more than 7 points per week from the following table. Note that the risk analysis conducted was based on weight, so a serving of any food will give children more points than adults.CR_2014ricetable

There is one more action step you can take. Both FDA and Consumer Reports also suggest the following rice cooking method to help reduce the final arsenic content in cooked rice: Cook one cup of rice in 5-6 cups of water. In my next post, I will provide some tips on how to do this without ending up with excessively soggy rice.

(Sources:
FDA Explores Impact of Arsenic in Rice. US Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm352569.htm. Updated September 6, 2013. Accessed June 19, 2015.

Questions & Answers: Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products. US Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/metals/ucm319948.htm. Updated August 4, 2014. Accessed June 19, 2015.

Report: Analysis of Arsenic in Rice and Other Grains: Executive Summary. Food Safety and Sustainability Center, Consumer Reports. http://www.greenerchoices.org/pdf/CR_FSASC_Arsenic_Analysis_Nov2014.pdf. November 2 014. Accessed June 19, 2015.

How Much Arsenic is in Your Rice. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/how-much-arsenic-is-in-your-rice/index.htm. November 2014. Accessed June 19, 2015.)

 

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