Consumer Reports (CR) today issued new consumption guidelines for inorganic arsenic (IA) in rice and other grains. While past reports on the subject by CR and others have been complex and academic, this one is consumer friendly. CR says its new guidelines were developed in response to consumer questions after its 2012 study found measurable levels of IA in all 60 rice varieties and rice products it tested. Consumers wanted to know whether there were types of rice that are lower in arsenic and whether other grains also contain arsenic. In today’s new report, which has gone to press in the organization’s magazine, the world’s largest independent product-testing organization attempts to answer those questions based on its latest analysis of data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To help both children and adults reduce their exposure to arsenic without eliminating rice from their diets, CR has developed a point system for managing rice exposure. CR says children should rarely eat hot rice cereal or rice pasta and those under the age of five should not replace milk with rice drinks based on elevated arsenic levels. In its 2012 work, CR found that the IA content of rices varies greatly depending on the type and where it was grown. CR has identified better choices with much lower levels of inorganic arsenic, including white basmati rice from India, Pakistan or California and sushi rice grown in the United States. CR tests also found lower arsenic options for other grains such as amaranth, millet, and quinoa. The full report, “Arsenic in Your Rice: The Latest,” is available online at ConsumerReports.org and in the January 2015 issue of Consumer Reports, which hits newsstands next week. “We are very pleased to learn that there are lower arsenic choices when it comes to rice and alternative grains,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports, in a press release. “This is great news for consumers who can now use our information to make better decisions for themselves and their families and reinforces our advice to vary your grains.” “In the meantime, we continue to call on the FDA to set standards for arsenic in rice-based foods and are particularly concerned about the effects on children.” Consumer Reports’ Findings and Recommendations Consumer Reports tested 128 samples of basmati, jasmine and sushi rice for arsenic and combined the results with findings from its 2012 tests and data from the FDA’s analysis of arsenic in rice for a total of 697 samples. The tests showed that the inorganic arsenic content of rice varies greatly depending on the type of rice and where it was grown. CR also looked at IA levels in 114 samples of non-rice grains and analyzed FDA data on the IA content of 656 processed rice-containing products. Below are some important findings based on CR’s new analysis:
- White basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan and sushi rice from the U.S. carry, on average, half the amount of arsenic than that found in most other types of rice. Brown rice has 80 percent more IA on average than white rice of the same type.
- Brown basmati from California, India, or Pakistan is the best choice because it has about a third less IA than other brown rices.
- All types of rice (except sushi and quick-cooking) with a label indicating they’re from Arkansas, Louisiana or Texas had the highest levels of IA in Consumer Reports’ tests. White rices from California have 38 percent less IA than white rice from other parts of the country.
- Organic rice takes up arsenic the same way conventional rices do, so don’t rely on organic to have less arsenic.
- Gluten-free grains, including amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and polenta (or grits) have much lower average levels of IA. Bulgur, barley and farro, which contain gluten, also have very little arsenic. Consumer Reports recommends that consumers vary the type of grains they eat.
Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.