FDA Data Shows Arsenic in Rice, Juice, and BeerMay 20, 2014
Data from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows arsenic levels in rice and rice products comparable to those found by a Consumer Reports investigation.
In an analysis of the FDA’s test results from more than 1,300 samples, Consumer Reports found the highest levels of inorganic arsenic in parboiled white rice, an average of 114 parts per billion (ppb), the Washington Post reports. Instant rice had the lowest, at an average of 59 ppb. Medium-grain rice from California had lower arsenic levels than rice from other areas of the United States. Although inorganic arsenic is a known carcinogen, there are no federal limits for it in rice, juice, or most other food, the Post reports.
The FDA found higher inorganic arsenic levels in rice products than Consumer Reports’ test results from 2012. This was true for rice beverages that are used as a milk substitute, and this underscores CR’s advice that rice drinks should not be in the daily diet of children under five.
In a first step toward reducing unnecessary exposure to arsenic in food, last year the FDA proposed an “action level” of 10 ppb for inorganic arsenic in apple juice. But Consumer Reports’ food safety experts concluded that the proposed guideline does not sufficiently protect public health, according to the Post. CR’s experts urge a tougher level that “creates an incentive for the marketplace to reduce levels of inorganic arsenic in apple juice and thereby reduce risk.” Consumer Reports experts said the FDA significantly underestimated how much juice children drink. The FDA’s highest daily consumption estimate for children under six was eight ounces, but a CR survey showed that 25 percent of children drank more than eight ounces, with 12 percent consuming 16 ounces or more. Consumer Reports recommends a limit of 3 ppb of total arsenic for apple juice and also urged action levels for juices such as pear and grape, which have been tested at levels higher than 10 ppb.
FDA tests also found elevated levels of arsenic in beer, many of which contain some form of rice as an ingredient. Ten of 65 beer samples tested contained inorganic arsenic levels from 15 ppb to 26 ppb, significantly more than the federal drinking-water limit of 10 ppb for total arsenic.