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Arsenic in Rice?!



There’s been a lot of talk lately about arsenic in rice!  Oh, of course! The gluten-free wonder!

Is nothing sacred?  Recently Consumer Reports Magazine released their analysis

of arsenic levels in rice products including;

  •  white rice
  •  brown rice
  •  organic baby rice cereal
  •  rice breakfast cereals

which were all found to contain arsenic.

Arsenic can be harmful to a child’s developing brain and is a potent known carcinogen.


The study found arsenic levels in the blood directly increase with greater rice consumption. Many products tested had more arsenic in each serving than the 5 parts per billion (ppb) limit for adults set by the EPA as safe.


So many rice products are marketed to children and infants as health food. Kids are very susceptible to the dangerous impacts of arsenic exposure.

It is associated with neurobehavioral problems as well as cancer and lung disease.

This means parents should be especially careful to avoid serving their kids food with a lot of arsenic.


Even though we should not serve rice and rice products to pregnant women and children, for an adult a few servings a week of white rice (which was found to have much lower arsenic levels than brown rice) would probably not be an issue.


If you choose to purchase white rice, buy a brand from California like Lundburg

(their white Basmati Rice has well below the safe limit of arsenic).

Also, rinsing the rice before cooking and boiling it in a high water to rice ratio can help to reduce the arsenic content.


Brown Rice is NOT a Health food!


Brown rice and brown rice products should be avoided. Avoid;

  •  brown rice syrup
  •  brown rice pasta
  •  rice cakes
  •  brown rice crisps


In my opinion, aside from arsenic, brown rice is not the health food it has been said to be.


  • It has phytates that are hard to digest and are anti-nutrients.
  • These phytates reduce the bioavailability of vitamins and minerals present.
  • Brown rice also reduces dietary protein and fat digestibility compared to white rice.


Having said all that, no food is completely safe or without some level of contamination risk.  So while rice may contribute an unsafe level of arsenic, we need to be cautious about demonizing an entire class of food.  While I don’t think rice is an essential part of a healthy diet, I do think it can be eaten occasionally, if we pay attention to the brand and method of preparation.

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  1. Regine
    November 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm ·

    Joy this post is freaking me out. I use rice as a wheat alternative for my kids like brown rice pasta. What do I use instead?

    • Joy Harari
      November 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm ·

      I would switch to quinoa pasta, and definitely get them used to zucchini spegetti as well.
      Just remember it takes three times of being exposed to a new food for someone to like it.