Arsenic in Rice: What You Need to Know

| December 13, 2012 | 47 Comments

Every so often, we hear about hidden health hazards in various foods. There could be listeria bacteria in hot dogs, E.Coli in bagged spinach and we know that there’s mercury in canned tuna. Now it has come to our attention that there may be high levels of arsenic in something that many of us feed our families several times per week: Rice. Arsenic is a naturally-occurring toxin that can cause various forms of cancer at high levels of exposure. The toxin can contaminate water or soil, and rice seems particularly susceptible to absorbing it. (Other types of fruits and veggies can contain arsenic as well, including apples and grapes.) While this sounds serious, and it is, it’s not something that should induce panic. Here are some tips on how to keep your family safer:

  • Limit your family’s consumption of rice and rice products. In general, it’s best to limit your kids’ rice servings to one or two per week, and yours to two or three. This includes white and brown rice, rice infant cereal, Rice Krispies and their generic equivalents, rice cakes, rice pasta and rice milk. Your baby can safely eat about a quarter cup of infant rice cereal per day, but you can also alternate with barley or other grains. If your child or family is gluten-free and relies on rice often, talk to your doctor to find out how you can follow your diet while not exposing yourself unnecessarily.
  • Cook your rice more safely. First, rinse your rice before cooking. Then, instead of using two cups of water per cup of rice, use four or six cups, and then just drain it like you would pasta.
  • Consider buying white rice over brown. While brown rice is usually considered healthier, there’s some evidence that it also absorbs more arsenic than the white variety. Also, organic rice can have just as much arsenic as non-organic, so don’t count on this as being a safeguard.
  • Switch up your side dishes. Some days, you can serve pasta or potatoes instead of rice. If you want a grain, consider using quinoa, barley or millet. Wheat and oats can also contain arsenic, but not as much as rice.
  • Talk to your child’s doctor if you have concerns. Also, stay tuned for possible updates; at this time, no particular brands or types of rice have been cleared as safe, but as more research is done, this might change in the future.

In general, the best things to do right now are to follow the procedures for preparing your rice more safely and to limit consumption where you can. But at the same time, don’t panic: Even drinking water has some arsenic in it. Federal limits for bottled drinking water are 5 or 10 parts per billion, depending on what state you live in. So remember that while you should definitely limit your arsenic exposure, this is not an emergency situation.

What are some ways that you prepare other grains that could substitute for rice?

Comments (47)

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  1. Holly Trudeau says:

    This has me nervous ever since I heard about it. My son has been eating rice cereal since he was six months (almost 2 now) on a usual daily basis. I’ve cut it to once a week now which is a shame because it’s his favorite breakfast food but now this arsenic thing has me all freaked out! Who would’ve thunk that something so mundane could contain a toxin?!

  2. Chrystal D says:

    Wow, this is scary to think about! Thanks for the article!

  3. Whoa, that is scary. My husband is Asian, and we eat Jasmine rice from Thailand several times a week. is there any info on contaminants in the ride paddies overseas?

  4. Karen Glatt says:

    This story has been in the news lately about Arsenic being in rice. We need to limit rice intake because we can get toxic levels of arsenic in our system, and that is really bad for children because of the dangerous side affects. I do not eat rice very often, but some cultures, rice is a every day food item that they eat. We need to be aware of this problems

  5. rebeka deleon says:

    wow, never heard about that. we don’t eat a lot of rice but when i do, it’s brown rice or wild. it seems like everything has dangers to it

  6. Jeana Speers says:

    my family eats rice a few times a week but my mom already has some serious health issues so thank you for posting this

  7. Jessica A. says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this I had no idea.

  8. June Isbel says:

    I have not heard of this! Thanks for sharing I’ll have to becareful!
    Happy Holidays,
    June

  9. Lanie says:

    This is really scary. I had no idea about this at all. Thank you for sharing this with us. Its amazing what we find it our food and water these days!

  10. Kelvin Justine says:

    Wow! that is one great tip. Especially in our country that rice is essential in every meal. Anyways there’s nothing wrong in eating what you like even for some facts like those, its just that moderation is really the key to experience everything better.

  11. Becky Kuntz says:

    This is so nice to know, because my family loves rice. I am going to rinse any rice I make from now on I will be rinsing. I guess Our family will try quinoa or potatoes will be served more often!

  12. Becky Kuntz says:

    This is so nice to know, because my family loves rice. I am going to rinse any rice I make from now on. I guess Our family will try quinoa or potatoes will be served more often!

  13. Anthony Buenavista says:

    Thanks for the valuable information!Now I’ll have to use four cups of water to one cup of rice when cooking, and I’ll have to start using barley,pasta,potatoes,etc. as substitute to rice.I’m really concerned about these since I eat rice 3x/day everyday of the week!Great Post!Thanks again!

  14. Liza says:

    We eat rice twice daily but it’s washed thoroughly before we cook it.

  15. Cassandra McCann says:

    i usually make a rice dish three times a week and even put it in my chicken soup. I will switch as much as possible thank you so much for bringing this to my attention

  16. San says:

    Thanks for your info as I didn’t know that rice could contain arsenic.

  17. Rebecca Sinclair says:

    Wow – who knew?! Thanks for the tips. I already rinse my rice but I love the idea of cooking it in double the water amount and then draining it! Genius!

  18. Bonnie says:

    Very interesting. I had no idea . Think I will just stay away from rice for awhile.

  19. Dorothy Boucher says:

    this is scarey to think that the government allows such a thing but truly i have known the government to do much worse to there people.. Shame on them…………… thanks and i will be spreading the word.

  20. Katherine G says:

    Thank you so much for these tips.

  21. april yedinak says:

    I had heard about this from my mom. Thanks for sharing the tips like rinsing the rice before hand. I love rice and used to eat it a lot more often, but my kids are not fans. I guess that is good, because now we only have it once or twice a month.

  22. shawna durk says:

    omg we eat rice all the time. I never knew any of this. Im trying to figure out how to share this on my facebook. Oh yeah i know how to. Oh ty so much for this info.

  23. Bella says:

    Yikes! I am glad I read this. The tips are great. Thank you so much for sharing! We don’t eat rice much but were planning on starting. I’ll have to make sure to take extra steps when cooking it.

  24. Wendy T says:

    Wow…..and I thought I was doing the better thing by buying brown rice. You just never know, do you? It’s crazy out there!

  25. Mary Blanton says:

    I LOVE all of the info you bring to your blog. The safety tips sweepstakes and coupons. You do a great job on this site and I appreciate what your doing! Keep it up! 🙂

  26. Fee (Phyllis) Roberts says:

    I worked around a lot of Asians and they eat rice more than once or twice a day and they live to be well in age and they age very well, so I think I’ll stick with my rice =D

  27. Debra Givens-Wagner says:

    Wow I didnt know, how scary…I love rice!

  28. Anne C says:

    This is scary. I’m someone who eats rice everyday and this is a very useful post. Thank you.

  29. Elena says:

    I didn’t know about it before. Sounds scray. I am going to cook less rice for my family

  30. cathy henatyszen says:

    Thank you for your very informative blog on the rice, great to know

  31. deb p says:

    Who knew? Thanks for the information. Deb P

  32. Jamers8x2 says:

    O.o Thank you for this! Oh wow…we eat rice all the time…

  33. Kari Flores says:

    Well considering our family turns to brown rice as a healthy carb side dish most nights of the week this is particularly concerning. I also have a baby that will be converting to cereal in a few months and will definitely consider this blog when choosing what I feed him.

  34. Kate F. says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I didn’t know that even drinking water has arsenic in it. Good to know.

  35. Caitlin Chapman says:

    oh my goodness, remember just a few months ago when it was leaked out to the public that apple juice has high concentrations of arsenic as well? this freaks me out just as much. uggggggh!

  36. Kay Culver says:

    I have never heard of cooking it with extra water and just draining it. I’m always worrying about too much water and now I don’t have to. Thanks.

  37. Christina Strapp says:

    This is really scary! Thank you for sharing this. This is the first time I am hearing about this.

  38. Michael Lambert says:

    I haven’t heard of this, we will be cutting back how much rice we eat! Thank you for posting this.

  39. Andy Grice says:

    I can’t remember the book’s title,but it told on how many maggots are allowed in a can of mushrooms.And how bread company bleach the meal(due to the amount of insects ground up with the milled grain)so the bug parts don’t show up in the bread.The worse was about roaches and rats in cans of soda.

  40. Judy Dailey says:

    I have ate rice all my life prefer it over potatoes, It seems like they come up with something wrong with all foods we grew up on. At this age i am not changing products I have ate all my life, but will eat in moderation.

  41. It makes me wonder what the source of the arsenic is – is it from herbicides and pesticides or is it naturally occurring/organic? Our body has the ability to break down some arsenic from organic sources.

  42. Lauren Rochon says:

    Wow, I have never heard of this. Thank you so much for this article. It was very informative and I will let my family know.

  43. Mara Frost says:

    I had heard about this but hadn’t read anything in depth about it until now. This article has some great ideas for making the rice we eat safer and also some alternatives to eating rice.I’m planning to implement some of these ideas.

  44. Kathy Idol says:

    I have not hear of this. My family loves rice so we eat lot of it. Thanks for sharing this & the tips you posted

  45. Rosie says:

    I saw the recent article in Consumer Reports. Ppl often assume something like organic brown rice would be better, but not so as concerns arsenic. Thanks for posting b/c many ppl are not aware of this.

  46. Carla Bonesteel says:

    This is just so scary! Good thing my boyfriend hates rice, so we never really eat it…but, still, why can’t our food just be safe?

  47. Rama says:

    Wow! thanks for letting me know, I am a frequent rice eater!!

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