Aw, Chickenshit! There’s Too Much Arsenic in Our Rice

Consumer Reports says there’s too much arsenic in the rice you, me and most Americans eat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration agrees and says it’s launching a program to test more than 1,200 rice products ~ from bulk rice to foods we feed our babies to snack crackers and cereals ~ for carcinogenic “inorganic” arsenic.

Reuters reported Wednesday that the Consumer Reports study said that 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.

Products that raise particular concern for children – who are still developing and have significantly lower body weights than adults – include infant rice cereal, ready-to-eat cold breakfast cereals and rice milk, CR said.

Today’s Consumer Reports-FDA double whammy sent the USA Rice Federation into damage control mode. The industry group said it is unaware of any arsenic-related illnesses that have been linked to eating U.S. rice. It also says that rice is a wholesome grain with nutritional benefits that far outweigh any perceived risk from arsenic.

The Washington Post reported today that Consumer Reports found that the highest levels of inorganic arsenic were in white rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas — which collectively produce about three-quarters of the nation’s white-rice supply. CR added its study showed inorganic arsenic found in brown rice was consistently higher than in white rice. That’s because arsenic collects in the nutrient-rich brown outer layer of rice grains, which removed during milling when the grains are polished to produce white rice.

The in­organic form of arsenic is known to cause bladder, lung and skin cancers, the CR report noted.

Nature reported back in a 2005 article, U.S. Rice May Carry an Arsenic Burden, that U.S.-grown rice carries “1.4

to 5 times more arsenic” than rice from Europe, India and Bangladesh. Mother Jones’s food, agriculture and health writer Tom Philpott breaks down the reason American-grown rice is more carcinogenic than imported strains ~ CHICKENS.

In an article titled published Sept. 19 in the online version of Mother Jones titled, Waiter, There’s Arsenic in My Rice, Philpott writes:

The US poultry industry has a disturbing habit of feeding arsenic to chickens. Arsenic, it turns out, helps control a common bug that infects chicken meat, and also gives chicken flesh a pink hue, which the industry thinks consumers want.

Then… the U.S. poultry industry found it could sell chicken manure to cotton farmers as manure and did so for the better part of the 20th century. Later, as the American cotton industry waned, farmers began growing ~ you guessed it ~ rice in or near the former cotton belts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas. An estimated 1.6 million tons of chicken manure was plowed into American farmlands since the 1960s, Philpott reports.

WaPo: Reducing your arsenic risk from rice products

[Sources ~ WaPo / Mother Jones / Nature / Reuters ]

[Snicker] GR News is always ahead of the curve:  http://www.giantrobot.com/food-2/arsenic-in-rice/

1 Comment

  1. Michelle Klein-Hass
    19 September 12, 5:45pm

    Any info about arsenic content in California rice? I tend to stick with California brands of rice. And then there’s the stuff imported from Japan…but that’s got problems of its own. What’s a genmai lover to do? T_T

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