Most of us who are gluten free consume a lot of rice. It’s a staple, whether you eat it cooked plain or hidden in your cereal. Most of the baked goods I eat have “rice flour” somewhere on the ingredients My favorite cheap/low sugar cereal is Rice Chex. The new health scare is that rice may contain dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic.
The fact is, arsenic is heavily regulated by the EPA when it comes to water. None of us are at risk of arsenic poisoning from our drinking water. However, arsenic in food is not [yet] regulated by the FDA. I hope that will change. New research shows that significant levels of inorganic arsenic are taken into the rice grains when grown in sites where arsenic was applied to the soils, deposited from industrial air pollution or gas combustion. In the southern USA, arsenic-containing pesticides were once heavily used on cotton fields that today may grown organic brown rice– so even your “healthy” choices may not be so great for you.
So, how much rice can you safely eat? Are there any other ways to minimize exposure? The Huffington Post put together a good report on how much and which rice products children and adults can safely eat. They also explain how cooking rice with excess water that you discard could limit arsenic intake. I, for one, have been sticking to Perky’s to cut out the rice cereal [note: Perky’s is much cheaper if you buy it via Amazon, although it takes me forever to get through 10 boxes].
Similar, but less specific, recommendations have been voiced by the Environmental Working Group. A lot of detail on arsenic, how it gets in rice and why its dangerous is also provided in this article.
Never fear, the US government is hot on the case. They’re now documenting arsenic levels in various rice products and from different regions. One should hope that this will lead to regulation of arsenic in food, labeling or some other means of monitoring and controlling our exposure. A reassuring shout-out to Celiacs from the FDA:
“Rice comes from all over the world and is grown very differently from region to region, which may greatly vary the levels of arsenic within the same kind of product. The larger sample that FDA is taking will cover the wide variety of rice types, geographical regions where rice is grown, and the wide range of foods that contain rice as an ingredient.
FDA expects to complete the additional collection and analysis of samples by the end of the year. The agency is paying particular attention to rice and rice products consumed by children, as well as consumers like Asian-Americans and those with celiac disease who may consumer higher levels of rice.”
Personally, I will try not to eat rice at every meal, every day… but as Kate always said about gluten contamination “paranoid as you want to be.” Decide what you think is reasonable. Take these reports with a grain of …. rice? And hope the FDA will get a handle on the science soon.