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Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Set Arsenic Limits for Rice Products

In response to a recent Consumer Reports investigation on arsenic in rice, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced legislation that would to limit the amount of arsenic permitted in rice and rice-based products.

In a release from the lawmakers, they said they were taking action because the investigation revealed “alarmingly high levels of arsenic” in rice and rice-based products, like cereal. There are currently federal safety standards for arsenic in drinking water, but no such standards exist for for arsenic in most foods, including rice and rice-based products.

“The idea that high levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen, are present in rice, cereal and other common, everyday foods is absolutely outrageous,” said DeLauro. “The federal government has an obligation to every American family to ensure that the food they consume is safe and should not make them sick. This is not the first time we have been alerted to the dangers of arsenic, and quite simply we must do more to ensure that our food supply is safe. This bill is a step in that direction.”

The R.I.C.E Act (Reducing food-based Inorganic and organic Compounds Exposure Act) would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set a maximum permissible level of arsenic in rice and food containing rice.  FDA currently has standards for bottled water, but nothing else.

“The health risks associated with inorganic arsenic as a carcinogen are widely known and there absolutely should be a federal arsenic standard for rice products similar to those for bottled water,” said Pallone.

“It is inexcusable that no standards exist to keep arsenic, a known carcinogen, out of rice and rice-based products like cereal,” said Lowey. “This legislation will help protect families from this unacceptable risk.”

The Consumer Reports investigation found arsenic in more than 200 samples of rice and rice-based products.  Arsenic is known to contribute to the likelihood of developing multiple cancers and other serious health problems.

The FDA said this week that the agency is in the process of collecting and analyzing a total of approximately 1,200 samples to examine the issue thoroughly. This data collection will be completed by the end of 2012. Once the data collection is completed, FDA will analyze these results and determine whether or not to issue additional recommendations.

Based on the currently available data and scientific literature, the agency said it does not have an adequate scientific basis to recommend changes by consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products.

“We understand that consumers are concerned about this matter. That’s why the FDA has prioritized analyzing arsenic levels in rice. The FDA is committed to ensuring that we understand the extent to which substances such as arsenic are present in our foods, what risks they may pose, whether these risks can be minimized, and to sharing what we know,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains – not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food.”

The same three lawmakers introduced the Arsenic Prevention and Protection from Lead Exposure in Juice Act of 2012 or “APPLE Juice Act” in February. That bill would require the FDA to establish standards for arsenic and lead in fruit juices.

© Food Safety News
  • eater

    We wouldn’t want to go too far and extend the ban beyond rice. After all, arsenic is heathy when it comes from food produced by domestic producers with lobbyists and campaign money.