By Toni Clarke and Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
WASHINGTON, Sept 6 The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration said on Friday that after testing 1,300 samples
of rice and rice products, it has determined the amount of
detectable arsenic is too low to cause immediate or short-term
negative health effects.
The next step, the agency said, will be to conduct an
analysis into the effects of long-term exposure to low levels of
arsenic in rice.
The FDA's review comes after Consumer Reports urged the
government in 2012 to limit arsenic in rice after tests of more
than 60 popular products - from Kellogg's Rice Krispies to
Gerber infant cereal - showed that most contained some level of
inorganic arsenic, a known human carcinogen.
The consumer watchdog group said some varieties of brown
rice - including brands sold by Whole Foods Markets Inc
and Wal-Mart Stores Inc - contained particularly
significant levels of inorganic arsenic.
In response to the report, Urvashi Rangan, Consumer Reports'
director of consumer safety and sustainability, said the FDA's
interest in the subject was "great news" and that the agency's
findings mirror its own findings.
"It doesn't mean consumers need to throw out all the rice in
their cabinets, but they should be aware that the problem is
important," she said.
The FDA said on Friday the samples it tested came from
various types of rice grains, including white, jasmine and
basmati. The also included samples from rice products including
infant cereals, pasta, grain-based bars, cookies, pastries and
drinks such as beer, rice wine and rice water.
"Taken together, the samples cover most types of rice grain
and rice-based foods and beverages consumed in the United
States," the agency said.
The average levels of inorganic arsenic - the most toxic
kind - ranged from 2.6 to 7.2 micrograms per serving of rice
grains. Instant rice was at the low end of the range and brown
rice came in at the high end.
In foods, the element may be present as inorganic arsenic or
organic arsenic, the FDA said. Together they are referred to as
Among rice products the level of inorganic arsenic ranged
from 0.1 to 6.6 micrograms per serving, with infant formula at
the low end, and rice pasta at the high end. The levels are not
high enough to cause any short-term health effects, the agency
The average amount of inorganic arsenic among 99 samples of
brown rice was 7.2 micrograms, with some samples originating in
the United States running as high as 10 micrograms. The average
amount in instant rice was 2.6 micrograms.
Grant Lundberg, chief executive of Richvale,
California-based Lundberg Family Farms, which cultivates 16,000
acres of rice, described the FDA's findings as "old news" and
said he does not expect them to have an effect on sales or
"The findings the FDA is reporting are consistent with the
information and samples that we've taken from our supply chain,"
he said, "so I don't think there's anything in here that's out
of our expectation."
The FDA declined to name specific products among the samples
it tested, saying that while the total number of samples was
large enough to accurately measure average levels of arsenic, it
was not large enough to evaluate specific brands.
Some companies source their rice from different locations,
which may result in samples from the same brand having different
levels of arsenic over time, the agency said.
Margaret Karagas, a professor at the Geisel School of
Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire, is co-author of
a study on arsenic in rice. While she applauds the FDA for
undertaking such large-scale testing, she said more is needed to
understand the types of arsenic found, and its geographic
Results from the FDA's tests showed that arsenic levels in
U.S.-grown rice are often higher than those in rice grown
elsewhere in the world.
"We now have tools that provide greater specificity about
the different types of arsenic present in foods," the FDA said.
The agency will conduct a risk assessment to consider how
much arsenic is consumed from rice products and whether there
are variations in health effects for certain segments of the
Once complete, the assessment will help the agency determine
whether further action is necessary, the FDA said. It is also
conducting additional sampling to broaden its data on infant and
In the meantime, the FDA recommends that consumers eat a
well-balanced diet to minimize the potential negative effects of
eating too much of any one food. It said wheat, barley and oats
are among the nutritious grains that consumers can eat to vary