Posts Tagged ‘ arsenic ’

Arsenic in Rice: Should Parents Be Concerned?

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

If recent media reports about arsenic in rice have made you question whether or not it’s safe for you and your children to eat rice or rice products, the Food and Drug Administration has some encouraging news for you. After completing tests on more than 1,300 samples of rice and rice products to determine how much total arsenic and inorganic arsenic they contain, the FDA released a new report that concludes arsenic levels are too low to cause immediate or short-term adverse health effects.

The FDA has monitored levels of arsenic in foods since 1991. More than a year ago, they began a project in which they would test more than 1,300 samples. I covered this topic for Parents.com when the FDA released a preliminary report that included findings from the first 200 samples of rice and rice products analyzed. I also mentioned in the post that Consumer Reports urged the FDA to set limits after its own tests revealed sometimes worrisome amounts of arsenic in rice and rice products.

According to the FDA, arsenic naturally occurs in water, air, food, and soil. But it can also come from contamination caused by human activity—burning coal or oil, or using arsenic-containing pesticides. Although it naturally seeps into fruits, vegetables and grains, arsenic seems to contaminate rice more readily than other grains. Studies suggest that chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic (the most toxic form) increases the risk of some cancers, heart disease, and cognitive or other developmental disabilities.

Among the rice grain samples tested for inorganic arsenic, the FDA report showed that instant rice was on the low end and brown rice was on the high end. Among rice products—cereals, cakes, beverages, snack bars, and infant and toddler formulas—infant formula was on the low end and rice pasta on the high end.

Although the FDA has been monitoring levels of arsenic in foods since 1991, it seems to be ramping up its efforts to inform and protect consumers. Future plans include assessing the long term health risks associated with consuming rice and the degree to which people are exposed. The FDA also plans to work with other agencies to find ways to reduce exposure to arsenic and minimize its risks to keep the public—including those who eat a lot of rice and pregnant women and children—safe.

For many parents, knowing that there’s a substance of concern—or one that can be harmful—in a frequently consumed food may be enough reason to give that food up altogether. If you feel as though you’re playing it safe by avoiding rice altogether in an effort to avoid potentially unhealthy levels of arsenic in your diet or that of your child, that decision won’t preclude your family from consuming a healthful and balanced diet. But I don’t think you need to give up rice altogether if you choose to include it in your family’s diet. In my opinion, the best way to reduce exposure to potentially harmful ingredients in foods is to follow the advice of the FDA and current dietary guidelines: to eat a well balanced diet. I also believe it’s wise to mix up the foods you eat from each of the food groups. You can vary your choices daily, weekly, or monthly so that over time you get a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy and protein foods. This strategy helps you not only get a mix of nutrients, but it also limits your exposure to any nutrient or other substance that may be harmful. I eat rice—white and brown—and feed it to my children. We don’t have it every day, and we usually stick to half cup and one cup portions.

If you’re a new parent who’s considering first foods for your infant, you can follow the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics and consider a variety of grain cereals—rather than just rice cereal—as a first solid food. And if you want to give your children rice and rice products and, at the same time, reduce their arsenic exposure, you can choose those items that have lower levels of the substance as reported by the FDA.

My guess is that, in time, the FDA will set limits for arsenic in rice and rice products. It proposed limits for apple juice—another favorite among children—this past July. But until we know more, I suggest prudence rather than panic as the best course when it comes eating rice or foods made with it—or really any food.

What’s your opinion?

Image of white, black and brown rice via Shutterstock.

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Tags: , , , , | Categories: Diet, Health, Must Read

Arsenic and Apple Juice: What Parents Need to Know

Friday, July 12th, 2013

In a move likely to spell relief for many parents, especially those who watch and enjoy The Dr. Oz Show, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new “action level” for how much inorganic arsenic apple juice can contain. The new regulation will require no more than 10 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic in apple juice, the same standard currently set for drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency and for bottled water by the FDA .

Responsible for testing hundreds of foods and beverages for various substances that potentially cause harm, the FDA has monitored the amounts of arsenic in the food supply for decades. Although the agency has consistently found relatively low levels of arsenic in apple juice, it recently stepped up testing and analysis of apple juice. After assessing the risk of long-term exposure to arsenic from apple juice, the FDA set this new cap, specifically for inorganic arsenic—the kind of arsenic found to be harmful over the long-term.

Widespread concern about arsenic in apple juice, one the most popular kids’ beverages, became a topic of conversation—and debate—in 2011 when The Dr. Oz Show did it’s own investigation. When it looked at three dozen samples from five different brands of apple juice, it found 10 samples that had higher levels of total arsenic than allowed in drinking or bottled water. On Good Morning America, ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser called out his friend, Dr. Mehmet Oz, about what he thought were “extremely irresponsible” statements made on The Dr. Oz Show. “You have informed parents they are poisoning their children,” Besser said—and Oz denied.

Soon after, the FDA refuted the findings reported by The Dr. Oz Show, saying “It would be irresponsible and misleading to suggest that apple juice contains unsafe amounts of arsenic based on tests for total arsenic.” While both forms of arsenic—organic and inorganic—are found naturally in soil and water, and in small amounts in some foods and beverages, the FDA is most concerned about inorganic arsenic. And even though the FDA says organic forms of arsenic are essentially harmless, it acknowledges studies that suggest two forms of organic arsenic found in apple juice— dimethylarsinic acid (DMA) and monomethylarsinic acid (MMA)—may prove to be a health concern.

While it’s great that the FDA has taken a step to assure parents that the apple juice they buy for their children won’t have excessive amounts of inorganic arsenic in it, the bottom line about feeding kids hasn’t changed. As I similarly stated in a Parents.com blog when the apple juice and arsenic controversy first erupted, it’s prudent and wise to give your kids a varied diet by offering different foods and beverages from all the basic food categories. Mixing up their daily—or even weekly—diet  helps them consume a wide range of nutrients. At the same time, it limits their exposure to potentially harmful ingredients any one food or beverage contains.

If you choose to give it to your children in small portions, apple juice—like all 100 percent fruit juices—can fit into a nutritious diet. So can brown rice (which I’ve also written about for Parents.com), another arsenic-containing food being studied by the FDA. But the bottom line when it comes to feeding your kids healthfully and nutritiously, and empowering them to make their own food choices, is that it’s far better to focus on the overall dietary pattern and lifestyle than on any one nutrient or (unhealthy) food or beverage component.

Arsenic in Rice: Should We Cut This Grain Out of Our Children’s Diets?

 Image of splash juice with apple via Shutterstock.

 

 

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