FDA releases arsenic levels in rice

Sept. 19, 2012 at 10:59 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the level of arsenic in rice has remained stable, but many rice products contain the chemical element.

The government agency released 200 of an expected 1,200 samples of rice products Wednesday after the magazine Consumer Reports released its own study and urged federal standards for arsenic in rice.

Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA, said once the agency completed its analysis of about 1,200 rice products, it would analyze these results and determine whether to issue additional recommendations.

"We understand that consumers are concerned about this matter," Hamburg said in a statement. "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."

Arsenic, released from volcanoes and from the erosion of mineral deposits, is found in water, air and soil and therefore found in some food and beverages. Burning coal, oil, gasoline and wood; mining; and the use of arsenic compounds in pesticides, herbicides and wood preservatives also contribute arsenic to the environment.

Hamburg said the FDA has been monitoring arsenic levels in rice for more than 20 years and its analysis so far did not show any evidence of a change in total arsenic levels.

The agency is paying particular attention to rice and rice products consumed by children, as well Asian-Americans and those with celiac disease who might consume higher levels of rice.

"Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains -- not only for only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food," Hamburg said.

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