What Is the Latest on Arsenic in Brown Rice?

Consumer Reports raised alarm in September 2012 (published in the November 2012 issue) when it released a study revealing potentially dangerous levels of arsenic in domestic rice and called for the adoption of regulatory standards similar to those for drinking water.
Like many foods, rice is not bound by enforced arsenic standards, so Consumer Reports used stringent standards for arsenic in water set by New Jersey (0.005 part per billion). By this measurement, total arsenic (organic and inorganic) was discovered in many of the 62 rice products used as the test pool. Twenty-four of those products exceeded the New Jersey standard based on inorganic arsenic levels.
Inorganic arsenic is listed as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization. Long-term exposure to high levels of this carcinogen is associated with higher rates of cancer.
Rice, which is grown in flooded areas, absorbs arsenic from soil and water. Seventy-five percent of U.S. domestic crops are grown in the south-central part of the country, an area with a high inorganic arsenic count in the soil. Many of these farms formerly grew cotton and used pesticides and fertilizers containing inorganic arsenic, which has remained in the soil.
These high levels are of particular concern for brown rice advocates. Brown rice, a healthy whole grain, has been found to have higher levels of arsenic than white rice. This may be because arsenic is more concentrated in the outer layers of grain.
The Food and Drug Administration issued a response following the release of Consumer Reports' study and call to action. The FDA did not support the call for regulation, but it did commission a study to determine whether more stringent regulations are necessary. Early results from the discovery phase of the FDA's study have confirmed the arsenic levels found by Consumer Reports.
Based on data and current scientific studies, the FDA does not recommend that consumers change their consumption of rice at this time, but that people continue to consume a wide variety of grains. Upon completing expanded analysis of rice products, the FDA will determine whether to issue additional recommendations.

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