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Entries in Food Safety (1)

Friday
Oct122012

FYI: Arsenic in Rice and Juice - Hazardous or Hype?

You may have heard the reports in the news last fall, initially announced on the Dr. Oz show, about high levels of arsenic in apple juice.  And the more recent reports released last month, by Consumer Reports, now raising concerns about arsenic levels in rice.  Arsenic?  Most of us recognize this as a very dangerous substance and these headlines are quite alarming.  But before we jump to conclusions that all juice and rice are now off limits, let's review some background information about arsenic. 

Arsenic is a natural element present in the environment (in water, air, and soil) from both natural and human sources, including erosion of arsenic-containing rocks, volcanic eruptions, contamination from mining and smelting ores, and arsenic containing insecticides.  In fact, since the early 1900s, the United States has used over 1.6 million tons of arsenic for agricultural and industrial uses.  Arsenic containing insecticides were used in cotton fields, orchards, and vineyards until their use was banned in the 1980s.  Residues in the soil can still contaminate crops which absorb arsenic through their root systems. Rice is particularly vulnerable to high levels of arsenic during cultivation as it may seep in contaminated groundwater.  Organic arsenic (found in nature) is typically nontoxic, whereas, inorganic arsenic (used primarily in insecticides) has been associated with risk of developing certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Fortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been monitoring

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