December 19, 2012

Rice and Arsenic

Probably because I have a one year old and sometimes that's a little distracting, I completely missed this when it came out. Or I should say, I missed the gravity of it. I remember hearing there was something about arsenic in rice but I didn't realize what a big deal it was. 

While the FDA is characteristically cautious in their analysis, Consumer Reports advocates taking action, both personally and in terms of regulation, to deal with this problem. 

From the Consumer Reports study:
“We already know that high concentrations of arsenic in drinking water result in the highest known toxic substance disease risks from any environmental exposure,” says Allan Smith, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley. “So we should not be arguing to wait for years until we have results of epidemiologic studies at lower arsenic intake, such as from rice consumption, to take action.” 
"People who ate rice had arsenic levels that were 44 percent greater than those who had not, according to our analysis of federal health data."
I recommend reading their entire report.  

We're taking a better-safe-than-sorry approach and have stopped eating rice (except for arborio because a little rissotto now and then is a risk I'm willing to take and Poppyseed doesn't eat it anyway). We don't really need to eat rice and it's not a particularly nutritious grain anyway. Instead we're going with quinoa, couscous, millet, pollenta (oh dear lord do I love corn!), and bulgar. We already eat some of that some of the time. Last night was a mushroom and venison stew over Parmesan pollenta and in the summer we often eat tabbouleh. Couscous also makes regular summer appearances with tomatoes and feta. Millet is going to be a new one. I've eaten it before but never cooked it.

What are your favorite grains and favorite ways to eat them? After reading those reports, are you going to avoid rice?


  1. I was sort of ignoring the whole arsenic and rice thing as well. Perhaps I too will blame the one-year-old in my life. They do keep you busy, right? But, yikes, this does sound like something we should be paying attention to. One thing I wondered is about the other grains you mention. In the Consumer Reports piece, it sounded like many of them haven't been studied in terms of their arsenic concentration levels. In any case, thanks for the excellent post!

    1. Haha... yeah, one year olds. They're crazy!

      I actually have a longish response to your point about other grains and arsenic so I'm just going to respond in another post :-)