The Food and Drug Administration says the levels of inorganic arsenic found in rice are too low to cause immediate health damage. The agency has released the results of a study of 1,300 samples of rice and rice products, the largest study to date.
There are two forms of arsenic and both occur naturally in the environment. The organic type is essentially harmless. But the inorganic type can be toxic and high levels can potentially cause cancer. Rice is grown in water on the ground and can absorb higher levels of arsenic than other foods.
The study showed levels varied significantly in the products, with the most inorganic arsenic found in brown rice and lowest levels in instant rice.
Consumer groups have urged the government to create standards for the amount of arsenic in rice products.
"All the FDA is saying is that these low levels of arsenic aren't going to cause any health problems in the short term, immediately. And that is true, but that never was an issue. The issue about arsenic, whether it's in juice or rice products, is always the long-term effects of low-level exposure," said Michael Hansen of Consumer Reports.
While the FDA conducts more study, the agency says people should eat a well-balanced diet to minimize the potential negative health effects that could come from eating too much of any one food. The agency suggests that grains like wheat, barley and oats are a good way to vary your diet.
The rice industry says it's working with the FDA and has also been looking at ways they can try to lower arsenic levels.
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