As concerned moms we have been bound and determined to get to the bottom of food issues. Arsenic is one that keeps rearing its evil head in the media. This is a good thing; it makes us as consumers more aware of what we put into our bodies. What we find isn’t usually what we want to hear, and I’m afraid that Consumer Reports has brought us information that falls under that category. Here is what we have learned and what we can do to protect our families.
Consumer Reports released results from arsenic tests they conducted on 223 samples of rice products including; white rice, brown rice, brown rice syrup, rice cakes, infant cereal, hot cereal, cold cereal, rice pasta, rice crackers and rice drinks. The products were tested against the strongest state water quality standard in the US, which is New Jersey’s standard for arsenic in water 5ppb. The Federal standard is 10ppb.
What is troubling is that like the arsenic in apple juice issue, there are no safe havens. This known carcinogen was found across all rice categories. The most serious concerns seem to be that arsenic shows up in organic foods and infant rice cereal, rice drinks and in brown rice. So when you think you’re doing right, you’re wrong. Especially important for Gluten Free families and those that rely on a heavy rice based diet, Consumer Reports has made a recommendation to limit your intake of rice. Some recommendations are as follows.
Consumer Reports Rice Recommendations
The FDA has committed to testing 1,000 more samples by the end of the year and issuing their own official recommendations. They say in an official statement that there is not enough data to alter one’s diet and that a balanced diet is still the best way to ensure a healthy lifestyle. They also note that they have been monitoring arsenic levels in rice for 20 years. This doesn’t make me feel better personally as they’ve clearly had time to come up with some recommendations and seemed prompted now because of the recent media buzz over the issue.
Consumer Reports did work closely with a few proactive companies to create recommendations for consumers. In brief they are to;
- Make sure your water supply is safe. Call your local water utility or health department or call the federal safe drinking water hotline 800-426-4791. The City of Madison reports levels at non detectable to 0.8ppb (federal max is 10 ppb)
- Eat a varied diet, wash fruits and veggies thoroughly as they contain arsenic as well. Limit your child’s intake of juice like apple, it leads to tooth decay and provides unnecessary sugar in the diet anyway. For a safer alternative, rice grown in other countries tested for lower levels of arsenic so try basmati or Jasmine rice from India or Thailand.
- Diversify with other grains like oats, wheat bulgar. For gluten free options try quinoa, millet and amaranth.
- Cook your rice differently – Rinse your rice thoroughly before cooking and cook it in 6 cups of water to 1 cup of rice, which can reduce arsenic levels by 30%.
Is there comfort in the organic standards?
Less than we hoped. Given that organic products were tested and still contained high levels of arsenic, I wanted to find out exactly what testing the USDA does require of organic rice producers. I started with our own organic certifier the Midwest Organic Services Association. Their response was that while organic growers have to verify that inorganic arsenic is not used on crops now, there isn’t soil testing required to ensure the absence of organic or inorganic arsenic from past applications, prior to certification.
Our Commitment to you
1. YumTum will submit a letter to our elected officials requesting their support for legislation limiting arsenic in the food supply
2. We will continue to rinse our rice and will cook it as recommended above.
3. We will work to identify a supplier from California, which will reduce the likelihood of exposure through southern rice products. Currently our rice is from Arkansas where nearly 50% of the US rice supply comes from.
Recent Articles covering the report
LA Times http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-rice-arsenic-consumer-reports-20120919,0,396689.story
Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/arsenic-rice-toxic-element-inside-grain_n_1900654.html