Arsenic in food and rice

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Arsenic in your food
Our finding show a real need for federal standars for this toxin
Consumers Report magazine: November 2012

1. What is arsenic? / What is arsenic?
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is found in soil, water, plants and animals. The properties of arsenic have been known since antiquity. In ancient times, it was used in a variety of potions of uncertain therapeutic value and was a favorite

in various poison-for-hire schemes. In modern times arsenic has been used in a variety of applications including as a pesticide, as a wood preservative and in the semiconductor industry. It exists in two forms: organic and inorganic.
Arsenic is a natural element found in soil, Water, plants and animals. The properties of arsenic have been known since antiquity. Arsenic In modern times it has been used in a variety of applications, including as a pesticide, as a wood preservative and in the semiconductor industry. Exists in two forms: organic and inorganic.
2. What is the difference between organic and inorganic arsenic?/ What is the difference between organic and inorganic arsenic?
Inorganic and organic arsenic occur naturally in the environment, with inorganic forms being most abundant. Inorganic arsenic is associated with other metals in igneous and sedimentary rocks, and it also occurs in combination with many other elements, especially oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur. Organic arsenic contains carbon and hydrogen. (http://www.ead.anl.gov/pub/doc/arsenic.pdf) It should be noted that inorganic and organic are not terms used to indicate pesticide usage, or even human activity, but rather the other metals and elements they are bound to.
The inorganic and organic arsenic is found naturally in the environment, wherein the inorganic form is found in higher percentage. Inorganic arsenic is associated with other metals of igneous and sedimentary rocks, and also occurs in combination with many other elements, especially oxygen, chlorine and sulfur. Organic arsenic containing carbon and hydrogen. (http://www.ead.anl.gov/pub/doc/arsenic.pdf). Note that inorganic and organic are terms used to indicate the use of pesticides, or even human activity, but rather the other metals and elements.
3. How does arsenic get in my food?/As the arsenic appears in our food?.
Arsenic has been in food as long as humans have been consuming food. Because arsenic exists in the soil and water, incorporation into most plants and food, including rice, is inevitable. Some studies suggest that human activity can elevate arsenic levels. While arsenic is present in a wide array of foods, including flour, corn, wheat, fruit, poultry, rice and vegetables, as well as beer, wine, fruit juices and water, we support additional research into the pathways for arsenic to be absorbed by plants, and methods to reduce levels of inorganic arsenic in rice.
Arsenic in food since humans have been consuming food. Because there arsenic in soil and water, incorporation in most plants and food, including rice, es inevitable. Some studies suggest that human activity can raise the levels of arsenic. While the arsenic is present in a wide variety of foods, including flour, corn, wheat, fruits, ave meat, rice and vegetables, and beer, wine, fruit juices and water, supporting further research into the pathways for arsenic to be absorbed by plants, and methods to reduce the levels of inorganic arsenic in rice.
4. What are the health risks of arsenic?/What are the health risks that brings the arsenic?
Because arsenic is a naturally occurring element in water and food, it is important for toxicologists to determine safe exposure levels. In epidemiological studies observing the effects of poor water quality, particularly in developing countries, scientists have found that high oral exposure to arsenic over time causes adverse health effects. For example, in wells containing arsenic levels of 2,000 ppb, studies showed that such high levels of arsenic exposure can cause negative health effects in various organs, especially the skin. Several recently published studies have raised concerns about the health effects of lifetime exposure to arsenic at low levels, and we agree that additional research to better understand such long-term effects would be beneficial.
Because arsenic is a naturally occurring element in water and food, is important for toxicologists to determine safe exposure levels. In observational epidemiological studies of the effects of poor water quality, especially in developing countries, scientists have found that a high oral exposure to arsenic over time cause adverse health effects. For example, arsenic in the wells containing 2.000 ppb, These studies showed that high levels of exposure to arsenic can cause negative health effects in various organs, especially skin. Several published studies have recently expressed concern about the health effects of lifetime exposure to arsenic at low levels, and we agree that further research to better understand these long-term effects would be beneficial.
5. What does “ppb” mean?/That means ppb?
1 ppb = one part per billion, or 1µg (microgram or one millionth of a gram) of substance per liter of water. This is equivalent to one drop of water in a swimming pool, adding a pinch of salt to a 10-ton bag of potato chips or three seconds in a century.
1 ppb = one part per billion, or 1 g (micrograms or one millionth of a gram) of substance per liter of water. This is equivalent to a drop of water in a swimming pool, add a pinch of salt to bag 10 tons of fries the three seconds in an acronym.


6. How are contaminants in the food supply regulated?/Such as food contaminants regulated?

Regulatory agencies protect the public health by establishing limits on contaminants in food. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for setting limits on contaminants in food. In general, these limits (called Maximum Limits or MLs) are set based on the principle of As Low As Reasonably Achievable (Alara).
Regulatory agencies to protect public health by establishing limits for contaminants in food. In U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for establishing limits for contaminants in food. And general, these limits (called ceilings or MLS) is set based on the principle of As low as reasonably achievable (Alara).


7. What does ALARA mean?

ALARA stands for As Low As Reasonably Achievable and relates to the process of setting Maximum Limits (MLs). Let’s say for example toxicologists determine that 50 ppb of chemical X is safe- it would not be expected to produce harm. But let’s say that the food industry (growers and processors) is able to keep Chemical X below 10 ppb without disrupting the food supply. This is where the ALARA principle says the limit should be set at 10 ppb, as low as we can reasonably and reliably get it.
Means ALARA as low as reasonably practicable and refers to the process of cap- (LM). Say, toxicologists determined such that 50 ppb de 1 chemical X in hopes that causes damage. But let's say that the food industry (producers and processors) is able to maintain the chemical X below 10 ppb without interrupting the supply of food. This is where the ALARA principle says that the limit should be 10 ppb, the lowest you can get it reasonably reliable.

 

8. What is the current safe exposure limit for arsenic?
There are no limits (MLs) set by the FDA for total arsenic or inorganic arsenic in food. Codex, the arm of the United Nations that establishes standards for international trade in food, has not set an ML for arsenic in rice. The EPA has set a limit of 10 ppb inorganic Arsenic for drinking water and the FDA has set this same limit for bottled water. The question of what is a safe exposure limit for arsenic in food continues to be studied by regulatory agencies in the US and the rest of the world. We continue to actively monitor research on the issue of limits, and will share information with our consumers as this evolves.
There are no limits (NM) established by the FDA for total arsenic and inorganic arsenic in food. Codex, arm of the United Nations that sets standards for international trade in food, has not set MLs for arsenic in rice. The EPA has set a limit of 10 ppb of inorganic arsenic in drinking water and the FDA has set this limit for bottled water. The question of what is a safe exposure limit for arsenic in food is still studied by regulatory agencies in the U.S.. and the rest of the world. We continue to actively monitor the investigation into the question of limits, and share information with our customers as it develops.
9. What precautions can I take if safe limits of contaminants in a certain food have not been set?
At the levels we have seen, there does not appear to be a short-term risk for consumers of rice. The concerns that we see being raised have to do with the long-term effects of consumption of products with low levels of arsenic. One thing that we believe is helpful for all consumers is to eat a balanced diet, not only to have a well-rounded source of nutrition, but also to minimize long-term risks from consuming any one particular food. We also encourage all consumers to study the available information for themselves and reach their own conclusions, and have attempted to make this easier for consumers by bringing this information together through links on our Resource Library page. We also support the FDA’s efforts to complete a health risk assessment as the next step in fully understanding the health impact of consuming minute amounts of arsenic.


10. Is arsenic in rice a health concern?

FDA has been monitoring this issue for over 20 years, and increased their level of review about one year ago. FDA stated on September 19, 2012 that there is currently an absence of adequate scientific data to demonstrate causal relationship between rice and rice product consumption and the types of illness typically associated with arsenic. FDA is continuing to collect and analyze 1000 more samples to better understand the exposure to arsenic in rice and conduct a full health risk analysis, which will assist them in determining the guidance they give to consumers and food producers. We support the collection of scientific data as part of developing a health risk assessment.
At the levels we have seen, not appear to be a short-term risk to consumers of rice. The concerns that we are considering has to do with the long-term consumption of products with low levels of arsenic. One of the things that we think is useful to all consumers is to eat a balanced diet, not just to have a well rounded source of nutrition, but also to minimize long-term risks of consuming any particular food. We also encourage all consumers to study the information available to them and come to their own conclusions, and have tried to make this easier for consumers to bring this information through links on our resource library. We support the efforts of the FDA to complete a risk assessment for health as the next step in fully understanding the health impact of the consumption of small amounts of arsenic.
11. What about calls to moderate consumption of brown rice?
Based on their preliminary data and available scientific research, FDA is not recommending changes by consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products. Eating a balanced and diversified diet that includes a variety of grains in order to ensure good nutrition is FDA’s current advice for consumers.
FDA also states there is currently, an absence of adequate scientific data to demonstrate causal relationship between rice and rice product consumption and the types of illness typically associated with arsenic. FDA is continuing to collect and analyze 1000 more samples to better understand the exposure to arsenic in rice and conduct a full health risk analysis.
The health benefits of rice and particularly brown rice, have been studied extensively over the years. There are a number of studies that demonstrate the positive health benefits of consuming brown rice. These should be considered when evaluating what one would substitute for rice and rice products in their diets.

Based on preliminary data and scientific research, FDA does not recommend changes consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products. Eating a balanced and diversified diet, which includes a variety of grains in order to ensure good nutrition is the current FDA advice for consumers.
The FDA also states today, the absence of sufficient scientific data to prove the causal relationship between the consumption of rice and rice products and the types of the disease usually associated with arsenic. The FDA continues to collect and analyze 1000 more samples to better understand exposure to arsenic in rice and conduct a risk analysis to full health.
The health benefits of white rice and brown rice in particular, have been extensively studied in recent years. There are a number of studies showing the positive health benefits of brown rice consumption. These should be considered when evaluating what one could replace rice products and rice in your diet.

12. The levels of inorganic arsenic in brown rice seem to be much higher than the levels in white rice. Why is this and should I change my consumption patterns as a result?
All grains start life as whole grain. In their natural state growing in the fields, a whole grain is the entire seed of the plant (also called the kernel), consisting of three parts: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Brown rice is a whole grain and contains the entire grain kernel, all three of its parts. White rice, considered a refined grain, consist only of the endosperm. The bran and germ, which is about 10-15% of the whole kernel, are removed in milling and processing.
Most of the data we have seen indicates that brown rice has 30-50% higher levels of inorganic arsenic than white rice. However, scientists have not determined why or how arsenic is distributed through-out the rice plant and kernel.
As to the question of whether you should change your consumption pattern, please consider:

  • Based on their preliminary data and available scientific research, FDA is not recommending changes by consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products. Eating a balanced and diversified diet that includes a variety of grains in order to ensure good nutrition is FDA’s current advice for consumers
  • FDA also states there is currently an absence of adequate scientific data to demonstrate causal relationship between rice and rice product consumption and the types of illness typically associated with arsenic. FDA is continuing to collect and analyze 1000 more samples to better understand the exposure to arsenic in rice and conduct a full health risk analysis.
  • The health benefits of rice and particularly brown rice, have been studied extensively over the years. There are a number of studies that demonstrate the positive health benefits of consuming brown rice. These should be considered when evaluating what one would substitute for rice and rice products in their diets.

So even though the levels are higher in brown rice than in white rice, the FDA is not advising a change in consumption of brown rice. These levels are also below the levels that have been shown to produce adverse health issues in humans. Whenever one considers making dietary changes for health reasons, one should take a holistic view of all of the factors, and then make a choice that is best for them.
All grains start out as whole grain. In its natural state growing in the fields, a whole grain is the seed of the whole plant (also called kernel), consisting of three parts: bran, the germ and the endosperm. Brown rice is a whole grain and whole grain contains, the three parts. White rice, considered a refined grain, endosperm consists only. The bran and germ, which is approximately 10-15% Whole Grain, are removed in the milling and processing.
Most of the data we have seen indicates that brown rice has levels 30-50% higher levels of inorganic arsenic than white rice. However, scientists have not determined why or how arsenic is distributed through out the rice plant and kernel.

As to the question of whether to change their consumption pattern, note:

• Based on preliminary data and scientific research, FDA does not recommend changes consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products. Eating a balanced and diversified diet, which includes a variety of grains in order to ensure good nutrition is the current FDA advice for consumers
• The FDA also indicates that there is currently a lack of sufficient evidence to prove the causal relationship between the consumption of rice and rice products and the types of the disease usually associated with arsenic scientific data. The FDA continues to collecting and analyzing 1000 more samples to better understand exposure to arsenic in rice and carry out a risk analysis for the comprehensive health.
• The health benefits of brown rice and rice in particular, have been extensively studied in recent years. There are a number of studies showing the positive health benefits of brown rice consumed. These should be considered when evaluating what one could replace rice products and rice in your diet.
So, although levels are higher in brown rice than white rice, FDA is not recommending a change in the consumption of brown rice. These levels are well below the levels that have been shown to produce adverse health problems in humans. Whenever you consider dietary changes for health reasons, should take a holistic view of all the factors, and then make a decision that is best for them.
13. What about infant foods? Should parents avoid rice products?
We take the concerns of parents very seriously. The health of our consumers, including infants and children, is our highest priority. The FDA is developing a health risk assessment, which requires the analysis of much data and very complex interactions of diet, environment and behaviors. We continue to support that effort. Once the FDA’s full health risk assessment is complete, it will be much easier for consumers to make informed decisions about this issue. In the meantime, we encourage consumers to evaluate the information that is available in published research, and make their own assessment regarding the food they feed infants, and the potential health effects of any alternative food they may choose.
We take parent concerns seriously. The health of our consumers, including infants and children, is our highest priority. The FDA is developing a risk assessment for health, which requires analysis of many data and very complex interactions of diet, environment and behavior. We continue to support this effort. Once the assessment of health risks from the FDA is complete, will be much easier for consumers to make informed decisions on this topic. While, encourage consumers to evaluate the information that is available in the published research, and make their own assessment on foods to feed infants and the potential health effects of any alternative food of your choice.
14. How can a toxin, like arsenic, find its way into an organic product?
Plants are what they eat. Arsenic is one of the most common elements found in the environment. It is naturally occurring, and can be found in most foods. The critical factor is the dose. The levels cited in research, and that our preliminary test results are showing, do not represent toxic levels. More research is needed to establish maximum levels for long-term exposure. In addition, more research is needed to understand the uptake process in plants, such as rice, so that we can develop ways to minimize levels. Organic agriculture embraces natural systems of production, and we support continued research to utilize natural systems to minimize levels of inorganic arsenic in the food supply.
Plants are what they eat. Arsenic is one of the most common elements found in the environment. It is natural, and can be found in most food. The critical factor is the dose. Levels cited in the research and the results of our preliminary tests, no toxic levels represent. More research is needed to establish long-term levels of exposure. Also, More research is needed to understand the absorption process in plants, as rice, so that we can develop ways to minimize the levels. Organic agriculture includes natural production systems, and supports ongoing research using natural systems to minimize the levels of inorganic arsenic in food.
15. Is there a difference between organic and conventional practices in relation to arsenic uptake?
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element in soil and water. All plants take up arsenic, including fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether the farming method is conventional or organic. Organic agriculture embraces natural systems of production, and we support continued research to utilize natural systems to minimize levels of inorganic arsenic in the food supply.
Arsenic occurs naturally in soil and water. All plants absorb arsenic, including fruits and vegetables, irrespective of whether the production method is conventional or organic. Organic agriculture includes natural production systems, and supports ongoing research using natural systems to minimize the levels of inorganic arsenic in food.


16. You reference long-term effects in many of your responses. What do you mean by that?

What we mean by long-term effects is the health impact one would experience from ingestion of a material at a specific level over one’s lifetime, which is generally assumed to be 70 years. In conducting risk assessments, regulators will look at how much one’s risk of contracting disease is elevated by a life-time’s exposure at a certain level. This is generally considered to be a conservative approach to quantifying risk, consistent with the mission of regulators to protect the health and safety of consumers.
What we mean by long term effects is the impact on health can be expected with ingestion of a material at a specific level for the life of one, which is generally assumed to be 70 years old. In conducting risk assessments, regulators look at how much your risk of contracting the disease is increased by lifetime exposure to a given level. This is generally considered a conservative approach to quantify the risk, consistent with the mission of regulators to protect the health and safety of consumers.
17. I consume a lot of rice products due to my dietary restrictions. Should I change my diet to reduce the amount of rice I consume?
We understand that many consumers have dietary restrictions due to existing health conditions, such as celiac disease and gluten intolerance, which lead them to consume more rice than most Americans.
Based on their preliminary data and available scientific research, FDA is not recommending changes by consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products. Eating a balanced and diversified diet that includes a variety of grains in order to ensure good nutrition is FDA’s current advice for consumers.
FDA also states there is currently an absence of adequate scientific data to demonstrate causal relationship between rice and rice product consumption and the types of illness typically associated with arsenic. FDA is continuing to collect and analyze 1000 more samples to better understand the exposure to arsenic in rice and conduct a full health risk analysis. Once the FDA completes and publishes its health risk assessment, it should be much clearer for all consumers what potential long-term health risks there may be, and at what levels of inorganic arsenic consumption those risks may be triggered. Consumers can then make informed decisions about the balance of potential long-term impacts of rice consumption compared with a substitution of other grains in the diet.
We appreciate the position our consumers with restricted diets are in when reading reports raising concerns about the foods they have come to rely on. We support additional research into the long-term effects of low levels of inorganic arsenic consumption, as well as methods to lower the levels present in food.
We are aware that many consumers have dietary restrictions due to existing health conditions, such as celiac disease and gluten intolerance, that lead them to consume more rice than most Americans.
Based on preliminary data and scientific research, FDA does not recommend changes consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products. Eating a balanced and diversified diet, which includes a variety of grains in order to ensure good nutrition is the current FDA advice for consumers.
The FDA also states that there is currently a lack of sufficient scientific data to prove the causal relationship between the consumption of rice and rice products and the types of the disease usually associated with arsenic. The FDA continues to collecting and analyzing 1000 more samples to better understand exposure to arsenic in rice and carry out a risk analysis for the comprehensive health. Once the FDA complete and publish its risk assessment, should be much clearer for all consumers which are the possible long-term risks to health that may have, and what levels of consumption of inorganic arsenic these risks can be activated. Consumers can make informed decisions about the balance of potential long-term impacts of rice consumption compared with a substitution of other cereals in the diet.
We support long-term consumption of low levels of inorganic arsenic further research on the effects, as well as methods for reducing levels in food.
18. Does brown rice syrup have higher levels of inorganic arsenic?
Our testing results, research, and consultation with other food producers, indicates that the brown rice syrup manufacturing process does not concentrate the level of inorganic arsenic. It appears that the level in the syrup is at the same level as the rice that was used to make the syrup.
The test results, research and consultation with other food producers, indicates that the manufacturing process does not brown rice syrup concentrates inorganic arsenic level. It seems that the level in the syrup is at the same level as the rice used to make syrup.


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