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Dangerous Amounts of Arsenic Found in Rice-based Food Products

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Washington, DCMany popular rice products including organic rice baby cereal, rice breakfast cereals, brown rice, and white rice contain varying levels of carcinogenic arsenic, according to the results of tests to be announced Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Consumer Reports.

The tests were done by Consumer Reports on more than 200 samples of products containing rice, and were prompted by earlier findings of arsenic in apple and grape juices. The food brands tested include major labels and store brands, organic products and conventional ones.

There are two types of arsenic compounds -- organic and inorganic. Inorganic arsenic is classified as cancer-causing. Tests are being done to determine if organic arsenic poses a risk for cancer or other health problems. Arsenic can be particularly dangerous to small children if consumed in enough quantity, as it can set them up for other health problems in later life.

According to Consumer Reports, “The results of our tests were even more troubling in some ways than our findings for juice. In virtually every product tested, we found measurable amounts of total arsenic in its two forms. We found significant levels of inorganic arsenic, which is a carcinogen, in almost every product category, along with organic arsenic, which is less toxic but still of concern. Moreover, the foods we checked are popular staples, eaten by adults and children alike. We also discovered that some infant rice cereals, which are often a baby’s first solid food, had levels of inorganic arsenic at least five times more than has been found in alternatives such as oatmeal."

Currently, no federal maximums exist for arsenic in food. As a result of these findings, the FDA is being asked to set limits for arsenic in food, particularly baby food.

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