The topic of arsenic in rice is definitely gaining steam– the latest focuses on infants and toddlers. In some cases celiac disease is brought up, because in both cases, those groups of people have diets high in rice.
In recent years, we have learned rice has high levels of inorganic arsenic– a level one carcinogen, which is associated with skin, bladder, lung, kidney, liver and prostate cancer. For reference, organic arsenic also exists. It is found mostly in fish, but is not as toxic. Inorganic arsenic is what we are focusing on here.
A consensus statement published this week in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition raises the issue as significant health concern for specific groups of people.
Here are some quick bullet point highlights of the paper:
- Infants and young children, Asian communities and celiac communities are at higher exposure to inorganic arsenic because our diets are heavy on the rice.
- Rice and rice starch, flour and syrup are used to “fortify different infant foods including drinks, commercial purees and snacks. This could lead to high exposure of young children to inorganic arsenic”.
- Infants fed with breast milk have the lowest exposure to inorganic arsenic, compared to cow’s milk-based formulas (3 times higher inorganic arsenic content than breast milk) and rice protein-based formulas (based on one study, the report surmised inorganic arsenic levels are 15 times higher than cow’s milk-based formula. But the study admitted exact amounts of inorganic arsenic in rice protein-based infant formulas have not been independently studied.)
- For infants and young children with celiac disease the amount of inorganic arsenic intake is even higher. Reporting an arsenic exposure of 0.41 ug/kg per day compared with 0.26 ug/kg per day in healthy infants also consuming gluten.
- “Toddler formulas with added organic brown rice syrup have 20 times higher levels of inorganic arsenic than regular formulas,” the report states.
The report says, “At present, there is no upper limit for what constitutes a safe inorganic arsenic intake in infants and children, even though they may be more susceptible to toxic effects, with higher exposure reported to be associated with increased infant morbidity and mortality and impaired development.”
Overall the European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) Committee on Nutrition concluded in the paper, that inorganic arsenic intake during childhood could have long-term affects in a person’s health.
Specific to rice, all rice, but especially rice bran, have high levels of inorganic arsenic. Rice drinks and rice protein-based formulas should not be used on infants and young children.
Also, the group would like to see more focus on finding out inorganic arsenic levels in foods and use the least toxic in infant food.
As an interesting side note, the report mentioned that China is the only country that regulates the level of inorganic arsenic in rice. The maximum contaminant level is 0.15 mg/kg.
There is much more in this report. Click here to read the entire thing.
Also, if you are interested in learning more about how much inorganic arsenic is in your gluten-free food, Gluten Free Watchdog (GFW) is starting to test products for it. GFW also tests the gluten-free status of foods (and has been for years). Subscribers will be able to see the results of all tests. Want to learn more? Just email Tricia Thompson through the GFW website or check out her Facebook page where she has been updating the status of her organization’s arsenic testing.
Other articles on this topic:
New Developments on Arsenic in Rice, FDA Investigation September 6, 2013
Should Gluten Free Folks be Worried about Arsenic found in Rice? September 20, 2012