Ah, the arsenic saga continues, with researchers now reporting high levels of arsenic in rice and rice products. Seriously? Wasn’t it about three seconds ago that we reported on the latest batch of arsenic-infused apple juice?! And now rice. Pretty soon there won’t be safe food left to eat. But I digress. According to Consumer Reports a new study led by researchers at Dartmouth’s Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center has found a link between rice consumption and urinary arsenic. The study, conducted with pregnant women, shows that elevated levels of arsenic in urine suggest that many in the U.S. may be exposed to potentially high and harmful levels of arsenic via rice consumption.

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The Dartmouth researchers found that each gram of rice consumed by pregnant women was associated with a 1% total increase in urinary arsenic. This means if you consume slightly more than half a cup of cooked rice per day, you’ll end up with a total urinary arsenic concentration comparable to drinking a liter of water containing the maximum 10 ppb total arsenic limit permissible in public drinking water. According to researchers, exposure to arsenic while pregnant is linked to low birth weight, infant mortality, poor immune function and increased death rates from lung cancer later in life. On top of this, many parents still start their babies off with rice cereal and some children also drink rice milk vs. cows’ milk, thus increasing high arsenic exposure in early childhood.

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Researchers on the study note, and we agree, that this new research only further highlights the need to seriously regulate arsenic levels in food. Now, since so far the FDA doesn’t see fit to regulate arsenic in food, what can you do? You can buy organic rice. Research already shows that conventionally grown rice is packed with pesticides, so even without the arsenic issue, organic rice is the better choice. Now though, with the arsenic issue, organic rice is an even smarter decision. The Organic Foods Production Act specifically prohibits arsenic via the National List. The National Organic Program does allow water to be used in organic processing, however, any water used in organic operations must meet regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act, meaning, when you buy organic rice products you’re much more likely to avoid high arsenic levels.

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