The Truth About Arsenic in Rice and Apple Juice

Nov 21, 2013
Tagged with: The Truth About Arsenic in Rice and Apple Juice

Have you heard about the potential dangers of arsenic in the rice we eat and fruit juice we drink? Well I have the facts and current research that will put your worries to bed and your mind at rest.  Recently I watched a webinar presented by Dr. Julie Jones who is a distinguished scholar and professor at the St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She cleared up many misconceptions that people have today due to media scares from the Dr. Oz Show and Consumer Report studies.  

Firstly, it is important to know about arsenic. It is a naturally occurring metal that is found in soil, water, rocks, air, and food. There are some areas in the world (Bangladesh for example) where arsenic levels are so high that the risk of developing certain cancers is increased; however, THE U.S. IS NOT ONE OF THOSE AREAS. Actually, our rice has less arsenic in it than China, Japan, Australia, UK, and the EU! But what you need to know is that the total amount of arsenic does not matter; what matters is how much INORGANIC arsenic a food or beverage contains. The inorganic arsenic is what causes problems. And that is why the FDA monitors arsenic levels in our food and beverages and has been for over 20 years.

So why is the organic form of arsenic safer than the inorganic form? The organic form does not readily enter the body’s cells and it undergoes limited metabolism making it less toxic. Researchers have also found that arsenic does not accumulate in the body and is reduced through sweating. There are ways to decrease the absorption of arsenic in the body. Dietary fiber is a great way to inhibit or slow down the absorption of heavy metals like arsenic. Fiber is found in whole grains like BROWN RICE, which is one of those foods people may have stopped eating due to the arsenic scare. Even though brown rice has the highest amount of arsenic of all the rice types, it actually has the lowest rate of absorption. Researchers have found many other health benefits to eating rice like lowered risk of high blood pressure and obesity, and less likely to develop heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So don’t stop eating that brown rice!

When it comes to apple juice, the concern for arsenic levels was started from a Consumer Reports study done in 2012. They say that in the fruit juices that they tested, 10% had arsenic levels higher than the drinking water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But wait…why would they compare the levels of arsenic in juice to the drinking WATER standard? It is recommended that we consume around 8 cups or 2 liters of water per day and that doesn’t include the water used for cooking, preparing soups and beverages, and cleaning foods to name a few. Of course the drinking water standard is going to be much lower. And to make matters worse, later analysis does not support their findings. What the FDA recommends is that Americans consume the correct portion sizes of fruit juice that is outlined in the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines.

What about baby food? Researchers have also tested arsenic levels in different types of baby foods like rice cereals for example. The data shows that the amount of inorganic arsenic in “rice and rice products is at a level that is safe for consumption across the population” (American Academy of Pediatrics).

The take-away message is to consume a balanced diet that meets the USDA’s Dietary Guideline. Consuming a healthy diet will protect your body from contaminants and other naturally occurring toxins. And there are no known adverse effects from arsenic in food and water in the U.S. to date. To check out the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines and determine what portion sizes you should be consuming, visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/.

Does this change the way you perceive arsenic levels in your food and drinks? Did you change what you ate because of the false concerns over arsenic raised in 2011? Will you be more apprehensive about what the media reports in the future?

Author: Carleton Rivers