Arsenic is a chemical element found in water, food, air
and soil. It can be either organic or inorganic. If plants are
grown in areas with arsenic in the soil or water, some of that
arsenic can find its way into those plants.
Most parents were startled by the headlines warning about
arsenic-laced rice. The grain has long been a first solid food for
babies and it's a nourishing staple in many households. And rice-in
the form of pasta, bread, cereals and pizza crust-is increasingly
used by those eating a gluten-free diet.
What did the headlines not reveal? While rice contributes
17 percent of dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic, fruits and
fruit juices contribute 18 percent, with vegetables at 24
Consumer Reports, which released the results of
independent lab tests showing inorganic and organic arsenic in a
variety of rice products, wants the Food and Drug Administration to
set limits for arsenic in most foods. Currently, there isn't
The standard for drinking water is 10 parts per billion
(ppb) and 23 ppb in fruit juice. According to the USA Rice
Federation, one ppb is equal to a single drop of water in an
Olympic-sized swimming pool.
The fact that rice contains arsenic is old news. In the
opinion of many health professionals, Consumer Reports did a
disservice by publishing analytical data showing that rice contains
arsenic without answering the question of what is known about the
effects of very low doses.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says additional
research is needed before it makes recommendation on the possible
risks. It says "offering children a variety of foods, including
products made from oats and wheat, will decrease children's
exposure to arsenic derived from rice."
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a Naperville-based nutritionist. She loves to warm up leftover brown rice for breakfast. Follow her on Twitter @PalumboRD, Facebook at Christine Palumbo Nutrition or Chris@ChristinePalumbo.com.
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