What?! Arsenic in rice?! Organic and Brown rice, too?! It can't be!!!
Was that your response to the recent report from Consumer Reports and the US Food and Drug Administration? It was mine! Rice is a staple in my family's diet and it is something I recommend to many. What's worse, our gluten-free friends rely on it even more as do Asian and Hispanic populations. Having had a little time to research and 'digest' this news, I want to share my learnings with you. (and when you have time, click the links above to get the original Consumer Reports article and corresponding FDA announcement).
Yes, there are potentially high levels of carcinogenic arsenic in rice and rice products. Of the samples tested, many of them had higher levels than what is allowed in the water supply. And, it didn't matter if the rice was organically grown. What's worse, brown rice tended to have higher levels than white rice because the arsenic (along with many of the nutrients) settles in the bran layer.
No, I will not stop eating rice. Instead, I will:
- Change the way I prepare rice. About 25 percent of the total arsenic content could be reduced with thorough rinsing of the rice before it cooks. That means rinsing rice until the water is clear. I will also cook the rice much like I do pasta, with a larger water to rice ratio and drain the unabsorped water once the rice is fully cooked. Instead of the typical 2:1 water to rice ratio, a 6:1 ratio combined with rinsing has been shown to reduce arsenic levels by about 50%.
- Limit my intake. Unfortunately, until we know more, I will follow the Consumer Reports recommendations and reduce my family's intake to 1 serving per week. Also, it is important to limit baby's consumption of infant rice cereal to no more than 1 serving (1/4 cup) per day.
- Substitute other whole grains. Quinoa, couscous, barley, buckwheat, oats, and polenta can all be used instead of rice to accompany our favorite meals.
A helpful article, Cooking tips to possibly lessen risk of arsenic in rice,was published this week in the Chicago Tribune, Check it out!. And as new information becomes available, especially a change to any of these recommendations, I will post updates. Please share this information with your family and friends!