New data released Wednesday finding "concerning" levels of arsenic in rice has research group Consumer Reports calling for federal action to implement arsenic limits.
In testing more than 200 samples of 60 rice varieties and rice products, researchers at Consumer Reports found varying levels of the potentially harmful inorganic arsenic. Some samples, they say, exceeded safe levels.
Arsenic, which is found in water, air and soil, can be classified as inorganic or organic. Together, the two make up "total arsenic." Inorganic arsenic, according to the Food and Drug Administration, is the form that has been associated with adverse health effects. However, they say these problems are due to long-term, high-level arsenic exposure.
The FDA is currently conducting their own study of arsenic levels in rice, and though they are not ready to release full data on their tests, they say data collection will be complete before the end of the year.
A Safety Issue?
The recent findings have created a stir, but in a statement Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said the FDA understands concerns and is making analysis of arsenic levels in rice a priority.
"The FDA is committed to ensuring that we understand the extent to which substances such as arsenic are present in our foods, what risks they may pose, whether these risks can be minimized, and to sharing what we know," Hamburg said. "Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains – not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food."
FDA studies have so far returned "average" levels of inorganic arsenic for rice and rice products tested.