There are about 2.6 to 7.2 micrograms of arsenic in rice products per serving, according to recently released FDA analysis. The agency examined about 1,100 new samples of rice and rice products to understand and manage possible arsenic-related risks associated with the US food supply. While the findings indicates that levels of arsenic in rice are low, the amounts are still significant.
A component of the Earth’s crust, arsenic occurs naturally in soil and water; traces make their way into our food. The levels of arsenic in rice found by the FDA likely come from a combination of this naturally occurring arsenic, plus man-made sources like pesticides and other pollutants. There is no immediate health risk from the current levels, but the FDA points out that the potential for long-term risks is less clear.
Arsenic is a known carcinogen (that is, a substance or exposure that can lead tocancer) and evidence suggests that high levels can cause liver damage, birth defects, nerve damage and other health problems. The FDA findings highlight the need for further studies to better characterize what levels of arsenic in rice and other food products can be considered safe.
In the meantime, rinse rice thoroughly before cooking it to reduce arsenic exposure. Occasionally eating rice will not likely pose meaningful risk, but those who are concerned can substitute other grains. In general, it is important to enjoy a diversified diet–especially for children.