In The News – The Rice Dilemma
When both Consumer Reports and the FDA issued reports recently about the troublesome levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen, in rice—brown, white, organic, conventional—and rice products (brown rice syrup, infant rice cereals, rice milk, etc) the High5Kitchen took note.
While it is important not to get ahead of the science, there are certain changes the High5Kitchen is taking. Because rice is a nutrient powerhouse, I’m happy to report that there are ways to lower the levels of arsenic in rice, both through its production and in the kitchen through methods of preparation and cooking.
According to Consumer Reports
- The U.S. is the world’s leading user of arsenic. About 1.6 million tons were used for agricultural and industrial purposes.
- Even though banned in the 1980s, residues from decades of use of lead-arsenate insecticides linger in agricultural soil today.
- Rice absorbs arsenic from soil or water much more effectively than most plants, in part because it is one of the only major crops grown in water-flooded conditions, which results arsenic absorption through its roots, which are then stored in the grains.
- The south-central region of the country–Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas– has a long history of producing cotton, a crop heavily treated with arsenical pesticides
- In brands for which they tested both a white and a brown rice, the average total and inorganic arsenic levels were higher in the brown rice than in the white rice of the same brand in all cases.
Given their findings Consumer Reports suggested limiting the consumption of rice products. See their recommendations. See the chart summarizing results of Consumer Reports tests for arsenic in rice or rice products.
The High5Kitchen Strategy
- Vary grains. Use barley and farro in place of rice. Experiment with wheat, oats, quinoa, millet and amaranth.
- Mix brown rice with white rice. While white rice is less nutritious than brown rice, the outer hull stores more arsenic.
- Limit processed foods (which we already do as a matter of preference) Be aware of how many products contain rice and rice syrup such as rice cereals, rice cakes, health bars, gluten-free pasta and bread products.
- Cook rice differently: Thoroughly rinse raw rice before cooking. Cook rice in excess water (1 part rice 6 parts water, once cooked drain excess water to reduce arsenic level by 30-45%) follow by steaming for 5 minutes for better texture. Levels of Aarsenic in Rice: Effects of Cooking.
- Purchase California rice which was found to have 41% lower arsenic levels than rice grown in the south central states were cotton was grown. Market Basket Survey Shows Elevated Levels of As in South Central U.S. Processed Rice Compared to California: Consequences for Human Dietary Exposure.
- Purchase rice from countries that have shown to have much lower arsenic levels than those in the U.S. such as Egypt, Nepal, India and Pakistan. Balance carbon footprint with health issues.
- High5Kitchen follows the recommendations for total rice consumption set forth in How Much Rice Should You Eat?
- Remain informed.
What Consumer Reports Recommends:
- Set federal limit for arsenic in rice
- Phase out use of pesticides containing arsenic.
- End the use of arsenic-laden manure as fertilizer.
- Ban the feeding of arsenic-containing drugs and animal byproducts to animals.
To get involved ConsumersUnion.org/arsenic.
- Lundberg Farms Responds to Reader Comments (boss.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Arsenic in your rice? The Wellness Letter reports (wellnessletter.com)
- How To Reduce Arsenic In Cooked Rice (celiacchicks.com)
- Case Study: Lundberg Family Farms Confronts Reports of Arsenic in Its Rice – Case Study (nytimes.com)