The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors hundreds of foods and beverages that make up the average American diet. The agency looks for substances that could be harmful to consumers. This can mean industrial chemicals, heavy metals, pesticide residues and radiation contamination.
The FDA monitors rice and rice products, foods that FDA has specifically tested for the presence of inorganic arsenic, a chemical that under some circumstances has been associated with long-term health effects.
Thus far, the agency has analyzed nearly 200 samples of rice and rice products and is collecting about 1,000 more. Since rice is processed into many products, these samples include rice products such as cereals, rice beverages and rice cakes.
Arsenic levels can vary greatly from sample to sample, even within the same product. FDA’s testing of the initial samples found these examples of inorganic arsenic in micrograms (one millionth of a gram) in individual samples:
- Rice (other than Basmati rice): 6.7 per 1 cup (cooked)
- Rice cakes: 5.4 per 2 cakes
- Rice beverages: 3.8 per 240 ml (some samples not tested for inorganic arsenic)
- Rice cereals: 3.7 per 1 cup
- Basmati rice: 3.5 per 1 cup cooked
Based on data and scientific literature available now, FDA is not recommending that consumers change their consumption of rice and rice products at this time, but that people eat a balanced diet containing a wide variety of grains. (Translation: change your consumption of rice at this time.)
Data collection is the first step in assessing long-term health risks. Once FDA has completed its analysis of about 1,200 rice products, the agency will analyze these results and determine whether or not to issue additional recommendations.
“We understand that consumers are concerned about this matter,” says FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.
The Next Steps
FDA expects to complete the additional collection and analysis of samples by the end of the year. The agency is paying particular attention to rice and rice products consumed by children, as well as consumers like Asian-Americans and those with celiac disease who may consumer higher levels of rice. After analyzing all samples and conducting a comprehensive assessment of potential health risks, FDA will evaluate strategies designed to limit arsenic exposure from rice and rice products.
The agency is working with other government agencies, industry, scientists, consumer groups and others to study the issue and assess risks.
“It is critical to not get ahead of the science,” says Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods. “The FDA’s ongoing data collection and other assessments will give us a solid scientific basis for determining what steps are needed to reduce exposure to arsenic in rice and rice products.”
So what should a person who eats rice do in the meantime?
“Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains – not only for only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food,” says Hamburg.
(This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.) http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm319827.htm?source=govdelivery