The Straits Times
Published on Sep 19, 2012

US urged to set standards for arsenic in rice


WASHINGTON (AP) - Consumer groups are pressuring the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set federal guidance on allowable levels of arsenic in rice, prompting the agency to consider possible new standards.

So far, FDA officials say they have found no evidence that suggests rice is unsafe to eat. The agency is studying 1,200 samples of grocery-store rice products - short and long-grain rice, cereals, drinks and even rice cakes - to measure arsenic levels.

Arsenic is thought to be found in rice in higher levels than most other foods because it is grown in water on the ground, optimal conditions for the contaminant to be absorbed. There are no federal standards for how much arsenic is allowed in food.

Arsenic is naturally present in water, air, food and soil in two forms, organic and inorganic. According to the FDA, organic arsenic passes through the body quickly and is essentially harmless. Inorganic arsenic - the type found in some pesticides and insecticides - can be toxic and may pose a cancer risk if consumed at high levels or over a long period.