Facts about the Safety of U.S. Grown Rice
Rice is a nutritious food and an important part of a healthy diet. Recent concerns have been raised about the safety of U.S. grown rice following the publication of the Consumer Reports (CR) story. USA Rice presents these facts about the safety of U.S. grown rice.
Arsenic in Food is Not a Typical Food Safety Issue
According to food safety toxicologists, the issue of arsenic levels in food is not a typical food safety issue in that there are no known instances of illness nor are there scientific studies that directly connect arsenic in food in general, or in rice specifically, to any adverse health effects in the U.S. Thus, the scientists who specialize in this area do not perceive any ‘imminent hazard’ such as there might be with more typical food safety issues for which there is some scientific linkage between a contaminant and a known health issue.
- Investigations into arsenic levels in foods are part of FDA’s and EPA’s ongoing study of environmental toxins in food and water. In the absence of any actual reports of adverse data, agencies use computer modeling to create a “risk slope factor” to identify at what level toxins could become harmful to health. This is the process by which the EPA’s arsenic in drinking water standard was developed, and this process is now being applied to foods, including rice.
- Food scientists and nutritional experts also say that an assessment of the health benefits of foods versus the perceived risk is an important part of the equation. Such an assessment will take into consideration an analysis of U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data that shows rice eaters generally have better health parameters than non-rice eaters.
- It is also well documented that high rice-consuming cultures are typically associated with lower disease rates and better overall health.
Bottom line: FDA Says There is No Reason for Consumers to Stop Eating Rice. FDA does not recommend changes by consumers (including children) regarding their consumption of rice and rice products. As FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor says, “It is critical to not get ahead of the science. The FDA’s ongoing data collection and other assessments will give us a solid scientific basis for determining what action levels and/or other steps are needed to reduce exposure to arsenic in rice and rice products.”
The rice industry is working cooperatively with FDA during their investigation into arsenic levels in rice and will continue to be engaged with regulators, scientists and health professionals who are assessing risks versus the known benefits of rice. FDA estimates they will complete their investigation during 2013.
Good Nutrition – Not Avoidance – Is the Best Defense
It is important to understand that eliminating a single food from the diet will not end exposure to arsenic since it is a naturally occurring element found in all foods and water. For that reason, FDA and health professionals advise that the best strategy is a healthy diet because it will provide nutrients that enable the body to process and defend against a wide range of environmental and microbial toxins.
All Healthy Foods Contain Arsenic
It is also important to know that foods contribute only 20% of dietary arsenic exposure and that fruit and vegetables as a group contribute a greater amount than rice and other grains. Water accounts for the remaining 80%.
- Eliminating rice from the diet does not eliminate exposure to arsenic in the diet. In fact,nearly one-quarter of the inorganic arsenic exposure for consumers comes through fruits and vegetables.
(Source: Probabilistic Modeling of Dietary Arsenic Exposure and Dose and Evaluation with 2003-2004 NHANES Data, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, March 2010, Xue et al.)