Coffee klatch, Food safety
Comments 16

4 Ways to protect ourselves from arsenic in rice

Rice grains on a rice plant

Do you remember the news stories about arsenic in our rice a few years ago? Since then, we’ve cut way back on our rice consumption at our house. But we love the stuff! I keep sneaking a little back into our diets here and there. So it’s time to dig a little deeper and learn what the researchers are able to tell us about rice and arsenic today.

The story first surfaced in 2011 or 2012, depending on the source you read. Back in September 2013, ABC News ran this spot about the FDA’s study of thirteen hundred products containing rice or rice derivatives.

Did you hear, near the end, where the pediatrician said he no longer prescribes rice cereal as a first food for infants? Scary stuff, because arsenic is one of those heavy metal elements that builds up in our bodies over our lifetime.

Arsenic exposure in infants and children is a big deal, but we adults need to take care too. How much arsenic is too much? Surprisingly, the FDA can’t tell us yet. Presumably, they’re still working on it. All. These. Years. Later. Arsenic in water? They have that covered. Arsenic in apple juice? That’s covered too. Rice? Zip.

Update: On April 1, 2016, the New York Times reported that the FDA had just released a proposal to limit inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal to 100 parts per billion. In a news release, the FDA said it plans to open a federal registry for comments soon.

Fortunately, Consumer Reports (CR) did some research of its own and provides us with guidelines based on their findings. You will find a link to their article, which includes some handy charts like this one, near the bottom of this page. Click on the chart to see the larger version on Pinterest.

So how do we protect ourselves and eat our rice too? Most experts agree on these four steps.

Four ways to reduce our exposure to arsenic in rice

According to the sources linked near the end of this post, these four steps can reduce the amount of arsenic we take into our bodies.

  1. Reduce overall rice consumption. Pin the handy CR chart above and refer to it often. It assigns points to various sources and quantities of rice, one set for adults, another for children. The goal is to keep our consumption in any given week under seven points.
  2. Buy California-grown white rice, brown rice or basmati rice, which researchers found contain low amounts of arsenic. Avoid rice grown in Texas or the southeastern United States, where the arsenic levels test much higher. Or choose Indian-grown basmati rice, also shown to contain lower arsenic levels.
  3. Before cooking, especially brown rice, rinse the grains, soaking them about five minutes in filtered water, then rinse again. Apparently some of the arsenic is water soluble and will run right down the drain.
  4. Substitute other grains. According to the CR article, these grains contain almost no inorganic arsenic (the harmful kind):
    1. Amaranth
    2. Buckwheat
    3. Millet
    4. Polenta or grits (types of corn meal)
    5. Bulgur wheat
    6. Barley
    7. Farro

Have you changed your diet?

Since this news broke several years ago, how has your rice consumption changed? No change? Somewhat? Drastically? What grains would you suggest we try?

Since reducing our rice intake, we’ve discovered the nutty, toothy, satisfying flavor of farro, an ancient type of wheat. It’s now our favorite grain. We love it in salads, like the one you see here, the Recipe of the Day on YayYay’s Kitchen Facebook page. (Thank you Rachel Cooks for a fabulous recipe!)

In fact, as I write this, I’m munching a similar farro, apple and rubbed kale salad. Every time I take a bite, my taste buds yelp,  “More! More!”

Another favorite? Bulgar wheat, which is simplicity itself to make. Both bulgar and farro serve equally well as a pilaf with stir fry or a vitamin-packed, protein-adding ingredient in soups and, as you can see, salads.

Post a link to a rice alternative recipe you enjoy

If you have a favorite recipe to share using one of the safer grains, I invite you to tell us about it and post a link in the comments.

♥  ♥  ♥

Sources

FDA explores impact of arsenic in rice on FDA.gov
How much arsenic is in your rice? on Consumer Reports (CR)
Arsenic In Rice: How Does Toxic Element Get Inside Grain? on HuffPost Science
Five Things You Need To Know About Arsenic In Rice (Before Dinner Time) on webr’s Common Health Reform and Reality

Shared on:
Real Food Fridays #132 – Demanding real food for real health
Healthy happy green and natural party blog hop #104

 

16 Comments

  1. HI Kathyrn,
    Dr Oz had a show over a year ago about the dangers of arsenic in rice and his suggestions and ideas were about the same as yours. I also read about this on Natural News. It a real shame that we have to worry about this kind of dangers, but in our world today we need to stay informed and be researching anything we buy at stores. I appreciate you sharing this valuable information. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays. Pinned & tweeted!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We eat mostly brown rice. My favorite is jasmine brown rice. I’m not sure where it’s grown, but I’d better start paying attention. We probably eat about two cups each a week. Thank you for the information. I had no idea there was arsenic in rice. CAn one eat farro on a gluten-free diet?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Farro is an ancient form of wheat. If you are on a strictly no-gluten diet, I would think the answer has to be no. Some of the grains have little or no gluten, however. Follow the link to the Consumer Reports article and scroll down to the section titled, “Grains lower in arsenic.” There you will see the grains they describe as gluten free.

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  3. Thank you for a great post–and for including the links for more information. I’ve reblogged this to A Single Serving–it’s information that more people need to know!

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  4. Pingback: 4 Ways to protect ourselves from arsenic in rice — YayYay’s Kitchen | A single serving

    • That’s kind of you, thank you for sharing! Could you please put the information showing this is a reblog of my post and the link to my site in normal font? I would appreciate that. Right now, for someone like me with old eyes, that tiny font is almost impossible to see. : ) Incidentally, when I load this page or any page on your site, the page at first appears blank except for the sidebar. Only if I scroll to the very bottom of the sidebar do I find the main content. I’m using latest version of Firefox. I’d have contacted you privately but couldn’t find a way to do so there.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this. I do not use much rice in my cooking. I cut that out when I started on a diabetic diet. It is horrible the FDA will allow a food to have something in it that will kill us on the market.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Sandy. What boggles me about the FDA is that, after all these years, they still have issued no guidelines around how much arsenic in rice is safe, especially for infants and children, who accumulate it at a much faster rate, apparently than do the rest of us.

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  6. Great information, Kathryn… I too reduced my rice consumption during the last few years. This is scary, especially because I like brown rice. I hope I was eating California rice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda. I am honored to see you here. Most packages of rice will say if they’re California grown. If you buy in bulk, usually you have to ask a store clerk.

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  7. Thanks, again, for an informative post! We don’t eat a tonne of rice in our house, and often eat Indian basmati, so I suppose we’re already doing a couple of things right. I always rinse basmati, but will start to rinse my brown rice (and will check where it was grown) – great tips!

    Has my diet changed since hearing the news? I’m not sure. We really do like quinoa and use it much as you do farro (which I’ve been meaning to try). I’ve also started to eat bulgar, which I didn’t like as a kid (go figure!). So, I would say that my diet is always changing, but maybe not due to the arsenic news.

    You present important information is an easy to understand way, KG. You tell me why it’s important, and you give me some scientific info (but not too much). Keep it coming!

    Liked by 1 person

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