New worldwide guidelines on cancer-causing arsenic in rice

Brown rice healthier than white? Not when it comes to arsenic levels.

On July 18, 2014 The Codex Alimentarius Commission (in charge of all the alimentary canals in the world I guess) issued a statement that it has set a max level of 0.2 mg of arsenic/kilo of consumption quality rice. (I don’t think this limit applies to animal feed…which raises other questions.  So glad I don’t eat animal products.)  I’m not sure who will be checking this level and what will be done if the level is exceeded.

rice copyArsenic is found in water and soil naturally but it is also contiained in high quantities in pesticides.  Even if pesticides are not used on the rice food, if the rice is growing in a place that was heavily sprayed in the past, the arsenic will show up in the rice food grown there.  Because of the way rice is grown, in shallow rice patties filled with settled water in low ground, the arsenic has no choice but to settle into the rice plants so the rice grain soaks up more arsenic than foods grown in a usual farm field would.

There are two forms of arsenic: inorganic and organic.  Inorganic arsenic is toxic and causes cancer and usually comes from pesticides.  Organic arsenic comes from the earth naturally and is not “as toxic” because the atom contains carbon and it doesn’t react the same way in our body.  (The word organic used here has nothing to do with organic farming as both organic and conventionally grown foods can contain arsenic.) Total arsenic is the level of the two forms added together.

But let’s be clear here: there is no safe level of arsenic.

Brown rice is more affected than white because the “bran” is where a lot of the arsenic is absorbed.  White rice has the bran stripped away.  For most people in the USA, rice is not a daily staple, but for Asians and those in other Middle Eastern countries, consumption is high.  It’s especially dangerous for any children who are drinking rice milk or rice formula.  And don’t forget about puffed rice, rice cakes, rice crisps, rice energy bars, brown rice syrup, and everything else made with rice including sushi.

While you certainly won’t die from eating rice, you may want to revisit your dietary intake if you consume a lot of rice products unless you like the idea of consuming arsenic.

I have to say, I’m not a big fan of brown rice when there are so many other grains that I can choose from that cook up easier in less time and with more flavor like amaranth, quinoa and farro.

Please don’t count on the US FDA to say anything about this.  Less than a year ago they said all is well.  The EPA current “safe” limit for arsenic in water is 10 ppb which is a great reason to consider drinking distilled water as the distilling process removes all substances including arsenic.  If you are trying to eat healthier to avoid cancer and other illnesses, you may want to cut down on your rice consumption and look into replacing it with other forms of grain.

Interesting fact: Pfeizer, one of the pharma giants and unethical corporations developed chicken feed called Roxarsone which was made from arsenic, but they never got the OK for production.



Categories: cancer prevention, child safety, health, health and wellness, healthy diet

Tags: , , , ,

10 replies

  1. Hey, Susan. I have a questions about a different topic. Wasn’t sure where to post, so here goes. Do you know if Garcina Cambogia is safe for breast cancer survivors?

    • It’s not safe for anyone. I’m assuming you’re taking it for weight loss? If you’re looking to lose weight, I hate to tell you, but plant-based diet and exercise is the only healthy way. I don’t advocate supplements in general(except for Vitamin D and plant-based calcium…and other various supplements made from natural sources…circumin etc.) Since Garnica Cambogia can cause testicular abnormalities, that makes me think it’s a hormone disruptor. Even if taken in small doses…do you want to risk it? Thanks for the comment! Please let me know if you need help with weight loss. I’ll see what I can do.

      • I haven’t taken any of it. Was wondering about it. I tried searching online if it was safe and couldn’t find anything…just sales ads. So much stuff out there that makes everything look like it is healthy. One place boasted its antioxidant properties. Oh, well. lol

        • Thanks for the comment! I think you need to use common sense on this one. The fear is that when folks turn to “healthier eating” they will be loading up on the brown rice…every day etc. and that’s not a good idea. It is generally healthy, just find a grower located in the US not China.

  2. I have known about this issue for awhile and gently steer people away from brown rice but it is so great to have these links and your really good assessment. Thanks for this post – Sharing !

  3. Nothing seems safe to eat anymore! There’s been discussion about arsenic in rice at our Mother’s breastfeeding support group that I conduct at the hospital where I work. Most Moms are using oatmeal now. We suggest the site for guidance.
    And our family is exploring going gluten-free. I’m half-way through ‘Wheat Belly” and tried gluten-free bread this morning for the first time. Not bad! “Healthy whole grains” that include wheat may not be so healthy after all!

    • thanks for taking the time to comment and thanks for the link for mom’s to get more info ! We all need to share info these days.
      Not only the wheat but the yeast as well…and I never would have tried all those beautiful grains if I didn’t get off wheat! I totally agree! Thanks again!

  4. Very interesting … so many tout the nutritional value of brown rice … yet there seem to be so many issues with it.

    • This is the only issue with it that I know of, besides being a pain in the rump to cook (cook time is 45 minutes) but it can be a big one. Luckily there are dozens of other whole grains that give more nutrition and cancer-fighting fiber!

So whaddya think?

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