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Following reports in September regarding the arsenic content of rice by Consumer Reports magazine and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Washington, D.C.-based USA Rice Federation rushed to reassure consumers that the product is safe to eat.
All plant foods contain some level of arsenic, noted a letter attributed to “America’s rice farmers and rice companies.
“[A]rsenic is a naturally occurring element that has been unavoidably present everywhere in the environment for thousands of years -- it’s in air, water, rocks and soil, which is how all plant foods, including rice, take it up, regardless of whether the farming method is conventional or organic,” the letter explained. “In light of concerns about arsenic in rice, we have been working with federal regulators, including the FDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as they monitor the level of arsenic in food. The industry has submitted rice samples for arsenic testing and supplied information regarding rice production to assist in this effort. We believe that U.S.-grown rice is already safe, but we are always looking at ways to make it safer. For that reason, we will continue to stay engaged with FDA, EPA and others as they do further study.”
Noting that “[w]e are unaware of any consumers being harmed by arsenic in rice,” the farmers and companies said: “Scientists will continue to study how the human body processes arsenic in food and water, and will assess if there is any long-term risk in order to provide dietary guidance if appropriate. Currently, there is not sufficient data about arsenic levels in rice or potential risk to human health on which to base any recommendations to lower consumption or stop eating rice.”
The letter went on to direct those with further questions to visit arsenicfacts.usarice.com or contact the federation at [email protected] and 703-236-2300. The organization also recommends a September blog post by Dr. David Katz.