Consumer study finds high levels of arsenic in rice products - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Consumer study finds high levels of arsenic in rice products

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A new study is warning us to watch how much rice we eat. Consumer Reports says researchers found what they're calling "worrisome levels of arsenic" in rice products.

The study shows eating rice just once a day can raise the arsenic level in your body by 44 percent. Researchers tested 60 rice products, some found to have arsenic levels one and a half times above the Environmental Protection Agency's drinking water standards.

Wisconsin Environmental Health Network's (WEHN) Dr. Elizabeth Neary, a pediatrician, says arsenic can harm babies who are still growing.

"It's a carcinogen. It's metabolized and excreted through the urine and it's a risk for bladder cancer," says Neary.

Neary says rice doesn't need to be avoided altogether but until we see more research, parents can steer away from rice cereal for their babies to something more nutritious.

"Barley and wheat cereal. We can eat a varied diet including vegetables and fruits and meats so that rice cereal for a young baby doesn't have to be part of their diet," Neary says.

Neary hopes the FDA will consider the study's findings and impose new regulations on arsenic levels in foods, just as they have in drinking water.

FDA researchers are conducting their own much larger, 20 year study on arsenic levels in rice. That won't be completed for several years. Officials say early results vary among samples, but based on current studies, they're not recommending consumers change their diets.

Based on the FDA's preliminary results, cooked rice (not Basmati) followed by processed rice cakes had the most arsenic. The Consumer Reports study found brown rice in general to contain more arsenic.

Consumer Reports suggests limiting rice servings for babies and rinsing it well, to help remove some of the arsenic. FDA officials want to see more research before determining whether people should cut back on rice, but recommend a balanced diet.

U.S. Rice Federation representatives say there is no evidence of actual illness linked to rice.

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