Arsenic in Rice and What to Do... and What Not to Do

by Christine Selig

Arsenic in Rice - There is inorganic arsenic in rice. Consumer reports has been tracking this issue for a few years. Consumer Reports supported the efforts of Dr Oz to get arsenic out of apple juice and other juices, and are now working on rice. Arsenic gets into rice from pesticides and fertilizers that are made from chickens. Chickens are fed arsenic (2 million pounds a year in the US) to gain weight and to improve pigmentation (pinkish tinge). Arsenic causes cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more. 

What to do -  It will take some time for policies to change to get arsenic out of rice. In the meantime, replace rice with other intact grains, such as steel cut oats, barley, quinoa or wheat berries. You can also add more squash and organic corn to your meals for carbohydrates. Remember to eat beans - the best carbohydrates, every day. Beans have lots of good stuff in them.  

What not to do - Even though white rice has lower levels of arsenic then brown rice, don't swop whole grain brown rice for white rice. Yes white rice has lower levels of arsenic then brown rice, but white rice creates other problems. It has a high glycemic load and turns to sugar when eaten - not good for the body. Plus white rice still has arsenic - just less. Also - don't replace rice with white potatoes or white bread in your diet - these are also high glycemic load index foods.

If you are going to eat rice - rinsing it before you cook it and cooking it in plenty of water (like pasta) and then draining the rice after cooking reduces arsenic levels. Also - try black, red or wild rice - they have significantly more nutrients then white rice or even brown. 

For the Consumer Reports report on rice and arsenic go here.  

For more information about Consumer Reports' work on food and safety go here

If you want to watch the Dr Oz segment on arsenic and rice go here

If you want to read more about how arsenic gets into food go here.

And to learn more about arsenic in chicken go here.