First it was apple juice, now it is rice as the arsenic scare continues. I first heard of the apple juice arsenic connection from Dr. Mehmet Oz, our television medical guru. A battle of words had ensued between Dr. Oz, host of "The Dr. Oz Show" on Fox 5, ABC's Dr. Richard Besser and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), after the good doctor told us that there was the dangerous chemical arsenic in apple juice, the drink fed mostly to small children.
Of course the public, myself included, was understandably concerned. Many moms feed apple juice to their children, for it was touted as one of the safer drinks with fewer preservatives and other unhealthy ingredients. Hospitals usually serve this juice more than any other. So to hear it contained arsenic, a known poison, was alarming.
The FDA and others then accused Dr. Oz of being an alarmist and putting out false information to the general public. They assured us that the amount of arsenic in apple juice were at safe levels. Then a few days later, a shocker. Dr. Oz’s claims were true, for it turned out the FDA had done some miscalculations. But no bans or restrictions were imposed on apple juice. In fact, studies show other popular drinks like orange juice also contain arsenic.
Now rice has been added as another arsenic-laden product. Rice is the staple of millions of families' diets, so again this bit of news is frightening.
Speaking to the ladies of ABC’s “The View” on Thursday, Dr. Oz warned that though other countries have enacted safer guidelines for rice and rice product consumption, the FDA has decided not to impose any such restrictions on rice in the U.S.
On his website, Dr. Oz is sounding the alarm despite the FDA's reluctance to do so, even after their new analysis have found high levels of the poisonous substance in both white and brown rice, and rice products.
According to the website, the FDA has confirmed concerns after testing over 200 rice products such as ready-to-eat cereals, baby cereals, rice cakes, rice flour, rice pasta, rice crackers and rice for three kinds of arsenic. They reportedly found that these foods did contain elevated levels of the deadly compound classified as a potential carcinogen. The three groups of carcinogens were inorganic arsenic, a group 1 carcinogen, and two forms of organic arsenic, DMA and MMA.
Consumer Reports has also listed their finds on over 223 other rice products assessed from studying 3,633 people. Read the complete details of their results here. They have found that a person consuming one rice product had a urinary arsenic level 44 percent higher than someone who didn’t. The risk increased for someone eating two or more rice products, with their arsenic levels reportedly jumping to 70 percent compared to someone who didn’t eat any.
Dr. Oz says small amounts of arsenic are unavoidable for this compound is found all around us. From the air we breathe, water we drink to the foods we eat. Because it is a natural compound, it is found in the soil, and rice, which grows in that soggy environment, is particularly susceptible to arsenic exposure.
Though the popular staple is now setting off alarm bells, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), our arsenic intake from rice is 17 percent, which puts it in third place. The food that exposes us to the highest levels of arsenic are vegetables, at 24 percent of our dietary intake, followed by fruit and fruit juices, with 18 percent.