Which Brands & Sources of Rice Have the Least Arsenic?

Which Brands & Sources of Rice Have the Least Arsenic?
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Arsenic levels were tested in 5,800 rice samples from 25 countries.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The arsenic found in five servings of rice a week poses a hundred times the acceptable cancer risk. What does the rice industry have to say about that? When the story first broke that U.S. rice had some of the highest arsenic levels in the world, and all the headlines started, the USA Rice Federation said, “Enough Nonsense about Arsenic Already!” The study, in their minds, was “not only inaccurate in the highest degree, but also maliciously untrue.” To which one of the researchers replied, look, you’re the one who’s been ignoring the arsenic problem for decades. Had the problem of planting rice in arsenic pesticide-soaked former cotton fields been addressed, then safe soil could have been identified, low-arsenic rice varieties developed—instead of just developing arsenic-resistant varieties, so the plants can build up excessive levels of arsenic without dying themselves.

Not all rice producers have been so head-in-the-sand dismissive, though. After a subsequent Consumer Reports exposé, one rice company detailed how it was taking matters into its own hands. Lundberg Farms started testing hundreds of samples of its rice to share the results with the FDA. “We’re committed to providing safe food,” said the CEO, “and dealing with this problem very openly.” They’re not just sharing their results with the FDA, but with everyone.

If you go to their website, you can see they apparently followed through on their testing promise. This is for their brown rice. Now, they use parts per million to make it look better than it is, but compared to the average U.S. brown rice level of 154, Lundberg does do better. In fact, their aromatic brown rice, presumably their brown basmati and brown jasmine, average less than national white rice levels. And so, apparently, does their red and black rice. In fact, none of those samples even reached the average U.S. brown rice level.

Most other brands were pretty comparable—Uncle Ben’s, for example, and Walmart, though Whole Foods scored the worst—about a third higher than these others, and exceeding the national average.

In the largest review to date, based on 5,800 rice samples from 25 countries, the highest total arsenic average came from the United States, with U.S. studies overall averaging about double that of rice out of Asia, with the high levels in the U.S. blamed on the heavy historic use of arsenic-based pesticides. But, not all of the U.S. Yes, U.S. rice averages twice the arsenic of Asian rice. For example, nearly all rice samples tested in upstate New York, imported from India or Pakistan, had arsenic levels lower than 95% of domestically-produced rice. But look at the range here. U.S.-produced rice went from here, all the way up to here. Rice grown in the U.S. showed the widest overall range, and the largest number of outliers, primarily due to where it was grown.

There’s significantly more arsenic in rice from Texas and Arkansas than rice from California. If you just look at California rice, then it’s actually comparable to rice produced around the rest of the world. This is presumably some of the data that led Consumer Reports to suggest brown basmati from California, India, or Pakistan might be among the safer rice choices.

If the arsenic is from pesticides, would organic rice have less than conventionally-grown rice? No, which makes sense, because arsenic pesticides were banned like 30 years ago. It’s just that 30,000 tons of arsenic chemicals already got dumped onto cotton fields in the southern states. So, it’s understandable why there’s still lingering arsenic residues, even if you don’t add an ounce of any new pesticides. That’s why they specifically select for arsenic-resistant varieties of rice plants in the South. If only there were arsenic-resistant humans.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Icons created by Marco Galtarossa from The Noun Project

Image credit: Fiuodalsoar via Wikimedia Commons. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The arsenic found in five servings of rice a week poses a hundred times the acceptable cancer risk. What does the rice industry have to say about that? When the story first broke that U.S. rice had some of the highest arsenic levels in the world, and all the headlines started, the USA Rice Federation said, “Enough Nonsense about Arsenic Already!” The study, in their minds, was “not only inaccurate in the highest degree, but also maliciously untrue.” To which one of the researchers replied, look, you’re the one who’s been ignoring the arsenic problem for decades. Had the problem of planting rice in arsenic pesticide-soaked former cotton fields been addressed, then safe soil could have been identified, low-arsenic rice varieties developed—instead of just developing arsenic-resistant varieties, so the plants can build up excessive levels of arsenic without dying themselves.

Not all rice producers have been so head-in-the-sand dismissive, though. After a subsequent Consumer Reports exposé, one rice company detailed how it was taking matters into its own hands. Lundberg Farms started testing hundreds of samples of its rice to share the results with the FDA. “We’re committed to providing safe food,” said the CEO, “and dealing with this problem very openly.” They’re not just sharing their results with the FDA, but with everyone.

If you go to their website, you can see they apparently followed through on their testing promise. This is for their brown rice. Now, they use parts per million to make it look better than it is, but compared to the average U.S. brown rice level of 154, Lundberg does do better. In fact, their aromatic brown rice, presumably their brown basmati and brown jasmine, average less than national white rice levels. And so, apparently, does their red and black rice. In fact, none of those samples even reached the average U.S. brown rice level.

Most other brands were pretty comparable—Uncle Ben’s, for example, and Walmart, though Whole Foods scored the worst—about a third higher than these others, and exceeding the national average.

In the largest review to date, based on 5,800 rice samples from 25 countries, the highest total arsenic average came from the United States, with U.S. studies overall averaging about double that of rice out of Asia, with the high levels in the U.S. blamed on the heavy historic use of arsenic-based pesticides. But, not all of the U.S. Yes, U.S. rice averages twice the arsenic of Asian rice. For example, nearly all rice samples tested in upstate New York, imported from India or Pakistan, had arsenic levels lower than 95% of domestically-produced rice. But look at the range here. U.S.-produced rice went from here, all the way up to here. Rice grown in the U.S. showed the widest overall range, and the largest number of outliers, primarily due to where it was grown.

There’s significantly more arsenic in rice from Texas and Arkansas than rice from California. If you just look at California rice, then it’s actually comparable to rice produced around the rest of the world. This is presumably some of the data that led Consumer Reports to suggest brown basmati from California, India, or Pakistan might be among the safer rice choices.

If the arsenic is from pesticides, would organic rice have less than conventionally-grown rice? No, which makes sense, because arsenic pesticides were banned like 30 years ago. It’s just that 30,000 tons of arsenic chemicals already got dumped onto cotton fields in the southern states. So, it’s understandable why there’s still lingering arsenic residues, even if you don’t add an ounce of any new pesticides. That’s why they specifically select for arsenic-resistant varieties of rice plants in the South. If only there were arsenic-resistant humans.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Icons created by Marco Galtarossa from The Noun Project

Image credit: Fiuodalsoar via Wikimedia Commons. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

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