Last week the news headlines warned of a “new health threat” -- arsenic in rice. While we applaud the media for covering research that confirmed what many have known for years, there is a much bigger story here. And that is the overwhelming, pervasive presence of toxins in our food supply to the point that they are nearly unavoidable—even by eating organic.
It may sound trite, but it’s true--we live in a toxic world. The air, soil and water, including the world’s oceans are filled with increasing amounts of chemicals and heavy metals from a variety of sources. From industrial waste and pollution to “modern” farming techniques that employ a chemical cocktail of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, the sources of harmful contaminants are all around us.
So is it any wonder that rice—or any food for that matter--contains high amounts of arsenic or other harmful substances?
Still, the news leaves many wondering what amount of rice is safe to eat.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement. “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.”
For infants who are often weaned on rice, the recommendation is to limit rice to once a week or consider other alternatives such as barley or oatmeal. It is best to speak with your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns.
The type of rice and growing region can also affect your risk. In resent tests, brown rice, which retains the outer bran, carried higher levels of arsenic. Also rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas generally showed higher levels of arsenic than rice samples from India, Thailand and California.
More to the Story
Frankly, we are saddened every time we write yet another post about the latest toxic food scare. It wasn’t that long ago that we reported on high levels of arsenic found in apple juice or mercury and PCBs in fish.
But perhaps even more worrisome is what we don’t yet know. Only a fraction of the food we eat is even tested for known toxins like arsenic. And, in many cases, as with rice, there are no set limits or agreement on what is a “safe” amount in food.
This means that we could be just scratching the surface of a much bigger health problem.