Rice, a cheap staple food, is widely consumed around the world and naturally contains a deadly toxin called arsenic during its growth. The toxin content is very low, that is, eating rice is not usually harmful to human health. However, arsenic levels vary in rice, and past studies have raised concerns about how much rice can be eaten safely, including a recent study that calls for warning labels on rice packaging.
Researchers at the University of Sheffield evaluated 55 rice samples from British grocery stores, including commonwhite and brown rice varieties. The study found that 28 of these rice samples contained arsenic levels that exceeded European regulations for safe consumption of young children and infants.
Of the 28 varieties, infants under one year of age are required to limit their daily intake of up to 20 grams of rice, given the levels of arsenic. Because children are low in weight, they are particularly at risk from foods high in arsenic, and high levels of arsenic in a person’s diet increase the risk of cancer later in life.
In the high arsenic rice samples, the study found that brown rice had the highest level of arsenic because of the presence of rice bran layers. In addition, the study found that organic rice also had higher arsenic levels than non-organic rice, while white rice had the lowest levels of arsenic, said Dr. Manoj Menon, lead author of the study.
Brown rice and wild rice are healthy foods rich in fiber and vitamins, and adults need not avoid it, but scientists say they are concerned that there are so many varieties of rice in the UK that violate food safety regulations. He suggested that governments and the European Commission must introduce warning labels to alert people to arsenic levels in rice so that family members can choose food with knowledge.