My husband is the master of rice cooking. Luckily, I have him around to either make the rice or teach me how to make it properly when the time comes.
Nick became a rice master while living in Mississippi with a Hawaiian roommate. His roommate cooked rice everyday and had it with every meal, as they do in Hawaii. One of the things that Nick taught me, in which he learned from his roomie, was to always wash your rice. The Hawaiian roommate said that rice is one of the dirtiest things imaginable.
Now we know.
I say all this to bring recent issues to light. There has been a lot in the news surrounding rice and the arsenic levels it contains.
Recent studies have tested 200 different samples of rice (from infant cereal, to milk, to rice crispies) and have shown that eating rice once a day can increase the levels of arsenic in your body by 44%. The lowest amount of arsenic found in rice was shown to be at 11% while the highest was at 87% to the total arsenic they found.
Arsenic is a known carcinogen that can increase risks of skin, lung, and bladder cancers.
The strangest part to me is that the FDA states it will have to test 1,000 more samples in order to make any rice intake changes/recommendations. The article states that they will likely make “recommendations late next year.”
If they are aware of problems with rice thus far, why would they not want to keep the consumer informed?? Blows my mind and boils my blood.
Luckily, Consumer Reports have provided some sort of recommendations (see end of blog). These same reports are also asking the FDA to make limits on arsenic levels in food, which currently exist for water but not for food.
Again, boggles my mind.
(You can read more about the article here.)
So where does Arsenic come from?
(Directly from this website ) “Arsenic is used to strengthen copper and lead, and is used in pesticides, herbicides and as a lumber preservative. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines arsenic as a “chemical element present in the environment from both natural and human sources, including erosion of arsenic-containing rocks, volcanic eruptions, contamination from mining and smelting ores, and previous or current use of arsenic-containing pesticides.”
Therefore, organic arsenic (referring to the arsenic that found naturally) is less toxic than inorganic arsenic.
So how does Arsenic get into rice? (receive majority of information from here)
Rice is a grass grown of flooded fields, so whatever is in the water (be in pesticides, chemicals, etc), get absorbed form the roots into the seeds, and consequently into us as we eat the seed, which is rice.
30 years ago, the worst of the pesticides were banned (because of the arsenic and lead levels). Unfortunately, those pesticides that were once used don’t all magically go away. They still exist in parts of the soil and the non-lead arsenic pesticides are stil used in some cotton fields.
Some reports even say that arsenic is used in pig and chicken feed for growth promotion and disease prevention.
If you look at the chart below or listed in this website you will see that USDA organic rice even contains arsenic.
Why? Unfortunately, they cannot control what leaks into their crops or is previously in the ground.
An interesting finding in one of the articles was that rice grown in California and Thailand had lower levels of arsenic than rice grown in the south-central U.S.
The same report showed people eating at least one rice product a day having higher levels of arsenic in their urine “Our resulting analysis of 3,633 study participants found that on average, people who reported eating one rice food item had total urinary arsenic levels 44 percent greater than those who had not, and people who reported consuming two or more rice products had levels 70 percent higher than those who had no rice.”
And ANOTHER interesting fact….brown rice seemed to contain MORE arsenic than white rice has the hull carrying arsenic is still intact.
So what can you do in the meantime?
1. Stop eating rice all together (a little dramatic)
2. Eat white rice until the FDA comes out with some better laws/regulations
3. Buy organic rice, as it does have lower levels.
4. Wash your rice before you eat and follow #3’s cooking method.
5. Instead of the normal way to cook rice, where you cook two parts water to one part rice until the water is absorbed — cook it the way you cook pasta. Use six parts water to one part rice, boil the rice until it’s tender and then strain the excess water out. Consumer Reports says those two techniques will remove about 30 percent of the inorganic arsenic in the rice.
6. The site also recommends limiting rice products to children under the age of 5 as this is a very important developmental time for the cihld and his/her cells.
Here is is an awesome list of brands/products that show the varying arsenic levels. A great resource and guide when buying rice during your next grocery store visit.