What is arsenic?

Arsenic is a chemical element present in the environment from both natural and human sources, including erosion of arsenic-containing rocks, volcanic eruptions, contamination from mining and smelting ores, and previous or current use of arsenic-containing pesticides.

What is the FDA recommending to consumers about eating rice and rice products?

Based on the available data and scientific literature the FDA is not recommending changes by consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products. Our advice for consumers is to eat a balanced diet including a wide variety of grains, not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food.

Is rice safe to eat? Is it safe for children to eat?

Rice is an important and nutritious staple for many people. We believe it would be premature for the FDA to recommend modifying your or your child’s diet because of concerns about arsenic levels.

In looking at the research, there is an absence of the necessary scientific data that shows a causal relationship between those who consume higher levels of rice and rice products and the type of illnesses usually associated with arsenic. However, we are continuing to study this and note that other potential factors, such as other food in peoples’ diets.

What about rice cereals eaten by infants and young children?

Infant rice cereal has been used for many years because it is gluten-free, less allergenic, more easily digested, and is a good source of iron and other vitamins. With the limited data available, we are not aware of any acute health risks linked with the consumption of infant rice in the U.S.

Should I be concerned about feeding rice beverages to my children?

As with other types of rice products, we believe it would be premature for the FDA to recommend modifying your or your child’s diet because of concerns about arsenic levels. However, we note that rice-based beverages are an inadequate substitute for cow’s milk or infant formula. For example, although close in caloric content with 2% cow’s milk, they contain fewer important macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

Does the FDA agree with the findings and recommendations published by Consumer Reports?

Based on a preliminary review of FDA’s testing of approximately 200 initial samples of rice and rice products, we find that the results from Consumer Reports appear to be consistent with those we are reporting based on our initial testing.

While the levels reported are consistent with those released from Consumer Reports, FDA is continuing to collect and analyze 1,000 more samples in order to adequately cover the wide variety of rice types, geographical regions where rice is grown, and the extraordinary range of foods that contain rice as an ingredient.

This will help the FDA to better understand the exposure to arsenic in rice, conduct a risk analysis, and consider steps to reduce long-term exposure. We note that there are many different types of rice and rice products from different parts of the world. They are grown very differently, and the conditions under which they are grown may vary the levels of arsenic from year to year, lot by lot.

Does the FDA agree with Consumer Reports recommendations to set limits for arsenic in rice products; and ban the feeding of arsenic-containing drugs to animals that are used for the purpose of pigmentation, growth promotion, feed efficiency and disease prevention?

The primary concern of the FDA is the safety and security of our food supply and getting the best possible scientific information to allow consumers to make informed choices. The FDA is working with other agencies to evaluate the full range of measures that may be appropriate for the FDA and other agencies in the federal government to take to limit public exposure to arsenic.

Why are Consumer Report’s recommendations on limiting rice consumption different from FDA’s advice for consumers?

Based on the available data and scientific literature the FDA is not recommending changes by consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products.

We believe it would be premature for the FDA to recommend modifying diets because of arsenic levels until a more thorough analysis is completed. With that said, it is important for consumers to continue eating a balanced diet including a wide variety of grains, not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food.

Are there different types of arsenic?

There are two types of arsenic compounds in water, food, air, and soil: organic and inorganic (these together are referred to as “total arsenic”). The inorganic forms of arsenic are the forms that have been associated with long term health effects. Because both forms of arsenic have been found in soil and ground water for many years, some arsenic may be found in certain food and beverage products, including rice, fruit juices and juice concentrates.