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Consumer Reports to FDA: Set Arsenic Limits

YONKERS, N.Y. — Consumer Reports is asking the Food and Drug Administration to set limits for arsenic beginning with rice products and fruit juices.

The request comes after a recent analysis of rice and rice-based products revealed measurable amounts of arsenic in both organic and inorganic forms. Earlier this year a Consumer Reports test of juice revealed total arsenic levels that exceed federal drinking-water standards in roughly 10% of samples from five brands.

Inorganic arsenic is a carcinogen. Organic arsenic is less toxic but still of concern. No federal limits exist for arsenic in most foods, but the standard for arsenic in drinking water is 10 parts per billion.

Read more: FDA Responds to Report of Arsenic in Juice

Meanwhile, the FDA is testing rice and rice product samples for arsenic. Once its analysis is complete it will determine whether or not to issue additional recommendations. But based on preliminary data consistent with Consumer Reports’ findings, the FDA said it does not have an adequate scientific basis to recommend changes by consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products.

Margaret A. Hamburg“Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains — not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg (left), in a statement.

USA Rice, which represents America’s rice farmers and rice companies, issued a statement explaining that “arsenic is a naturally occurring element that has been unavoidably present everywhere in the environment for thousands of years — it’s in the air, water, rocks and soil, which is how all plant foods, including rice, take it up, regardless of whether the farming method is convention or organic.”

USA Rice has been working with federal regulators to submit samples for testing and supply information regarding rice production to assist in the effort. “We believe that U.S. grown rice is already safe, but we are always looking at ways to make it safer. For that reason, we will continue to stay engaged with FDA, EPA and others as they do further study.”

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