Have Some Arsenic With Your Rice

27 Comments 02 October 2012

Uh….I don’t know how to break this to you.

And I don’t have a lot of time to write this! So real quick…

Have you heard about arsenic in rice? A few months ago, I was bragging to my mom about my beloved brown rice porridge I enjoyed every morning. A few days later she left me a voicemail in her freaked out mom voice:

“Kelly, Please stop eating rice!!! Today in the Oregonian’s syndicated Dr. Oz column he warned about high levels of arsenic in rice! Please go Google it now. Love you, Mom.”

What?!!! So, I found a few mainstream sources online talking about this. I was curious as to why the gluten-free community hadn’t been discussing it. My first impulse was to write about it, but then I thought about all of the panic it could cause. I really really really hate the thought of ever being an alarmist, you know? Ugh. At the same time…this could be hurting people.

And what about all of the lovely business people that make us rice based treats with love?

I didn’t want to act in haste.

So, I sat on it for a little while in order to get more scoop.

And today I did.

Consumer Reports just published this article all about Arsenic In Your Food.  Please click on that link and read the detailed report.

And I’ve been invited to attend Arsenic In Your Food: A Conversation With Consumer Reports. It’s tomorrow and it will be a interactive discussion.

Here are more details on the experts that will be there:

Presenting a multi-perspective expert roundtable moderated by Dr. Urvashi Rangan, the Director of Consumer Reports’ Consumer Safety and Sustainability Group and featuring: 

  • Dr. Michael R. Harbut, Chief of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and head of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute’s Environmental Cancer Program
  • Dr. Keeve Nachman, Farming for the Future Program Director at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
  • Patty Lovera, Assistant Director of Food and Water Watch
  • Jay Highman, President and CEO, Nature’s One
  • Laurie Meadoff, CEO, Cancer Schmancer


Eat more cilantro and garlic.
One thing I’ve discovered is that cilantro and garlic are natural chelators. That means they can help rid the body of heavy metals. So, up your garlic and make cilantro pesto!

Eat a variety of gluten-free grains.
One good thing to come of this is it will motivate us all to mix things up a bit. There are soooo many wonderful alternative grains out there! I’ll be featuring them soon.

Eat less processed foods.
A lot of processed gluten-free products contain rice flour. Be aware of how much you are consuming.

Avoid brown rice syrup.
From what I understand as of now, brown rice syrup has an alarming amount of arsenic in it. Rethink using this or eating things that use this as a sweetener.

Please share this info with everyone you know.
Email it, Tweet it, Facebook share…whatever you choose, but please let us all help to spread the word.


I’ll report back asap after the meeting tomorrow!

Any questions you’d like me to ask? Please tell me in the comments!


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Your Comments

27 Comments so far

  1. 1
    Michele says:

    Thanks for following up on this. I new about cilantro and garlic because I have celiac and HH (hemochromatosis-iron and metal loader). I need to eat it more, but don’t really care for cilantro. I’m almost grain free now because I feel my best that way. But good to know about the rice issue.

      Dr Samantha says:

      I used to hate (!!) cilantro and then I read an article in the Times by a guy who trained himself to like it. I was skeptical but I tried it and it totally changed my life as a foodie. 🙂

        Kelly says:

        Interesting! How did he train himself to like it? I’ve read that it is genetic…”super tasters” are the people that think it tastes like soap. I loooove it!

  2. 2
    Paul Battisti says:

    Just a question, what about all the Philipino’s,Asians and Indonesian’s whose staples are rice and fish. Rice has the arsenic and fish has the mercury, but they all have longer life spans than we do ?? So what is the real danger here, these foods or the different environments in which we live ?
    Thanks for the information, I’m a newly diagnosed Celiac.

  3. 3
    Dr Samantha says:

    Thanks for weighing in on this, Kelly. For me the take home message is variety, variety, variety. A healthy diet has lots of variety, period. And there are so many gluten-free grains out there that can be eaten instead of rice. And that said, I’m still eating rice. I’m just not eating it every day.

  4. 4
    paula says:

    looking forward to the update. we’re not gluten free but we eat a LOT of brown rice. YIKES!

  5. 5
    Kelly says:

    I think it is kind of funny that the google ad below the blog post is for the USA rice federation or whatever it is called.

  6. 6
    Leah says:

    Man I would I would have read this before I bought a giant bag of rice from costco a couple weeks ago.
    Guess I’ll just have to make sure to wash it really well.

  7. 7
    Leah says:

    I Wish I would have not “I would I would”. LOL

  8. 8
    Stephanie says:

    As you know gf ppl consume 6-8 rice servings A day especially the kids!
    Rice cakes, chic nuggets, Mac cheese, rice bread ( my son eats 3-5  slices a day )
    This is frightening to say the least. What type of tests will they recommend to make sure our children and us are not slowly poisoning ourselves .
    I have read hair and nails need to be tested can you see what they are suggesting!!!!

    Stephanie AK Norton

  9. 9
    Kathryn says:

    When I read the CR article it was clear some rice is safer than other rice. Where it is grown made a difference. Rice grown on old cotton fields seemed to rate the highest due to the pesticides sprayed over the years. White appears safer than brown. Cooking it with lots of water and draining excess water can help.

    I agree about variety and moderation and we’ve been using more cilantro the last couple of weeks than we ever have – at least a bunch a day. Garlic is a given here.

    Now something that would really interest me is this – someone on a health board I belong to posted a note about this topic stating that Monsanto was behind this study and wanted to go after non-GMO crops. I have not had the time to research this on my own but am curious if there is anything to it.

    I look forward to hearing about the conference.

  10. 10
    Sandy says:

    Washing rice is not going to get rid of the arsenic. It is in the grain. I’m not worrying about this because I am an “older” adult. I would be very concerned about children eating this. Especially since one of the first foods they give to babies is rice cereal. I think we need a lot more information. Is it possible that our GMO rice products are the cause of the arsenic? Or the pesticides that are being used?

  11. 11

    Kelly, thanks for sharing. I have been writing about arsenic in rice since Feb 2012 when the Dartmouth study came out. I even have a petition over on change.org asking the FDA to regulate arsenic in rice. http://chn.ge/xJGMe5. Sadly, the Consumer Reports study is just in a long line of studies that have been saying the same thing since 2007! This is the main reason I started the petition.

    One of the best ways to protect yourself is to cook your rice in 6:1 water to rice ratio. Studies have shown a significant reduction in rice. For more ways to protect yourself see my article here http://bit.ly/xekXUv. You will notice that this problem can be solved agriculturally as well. Please share, tweet, and email people to support my petition. Everyone is at risk.

  12. 12
    Patricia says:

    I looked up what the FDA had to say about this and here is the web site, http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm319972.htm
    As a person said before, and the FDA is also promoting is “variety” . They are checking out the claims and if they find it in violation they will shut down production until the matter is safe and clear to use.
    Hope this helps, my first time on the blog.


      Patricia, I wish I could believe in the FDA; however, they have known about this issue since at least 2007. Dr Meharg’s study showed the same thing that the Consumer Reports stated. There have been subsequent studies since then including the Dartmouth study that came out last Feb 2012. How many studies do we need for the FDA to do something?

  13. 13
    Michele Martin says:

    there is arsenic in everything. Quantity is the issue.

    Thanks for doing the research.

  14. 14
    Kirstin says:

    So, I have heard that rice grown in California has lower levels of Arsenic than rice grown in the south. When you go to the conference can you ask if this is true and the levels by region? I use brown rice flour from California so I am hoping it is a little safer. But, I also know the state of California puts warning labels on rice powder that it might contain heavy metals so maybe it isn’t that safe. I would love more information on this. We have some rice but not a ton. Still, I am curious as it does seem to so present in so many gf foods. Maybe the GF community needs to gather together and find a solution. (some type of 3rd party testing we could get done.) Sort of the way gluten free watchdog does testing for gluten in products. Well, just an idea.


      Kristin, the levels are lower but it goes to the question of cumulative ingestion. Wash your rice for 3 minutes and then cook it in 6 parts water to one part rice. It will lower the arsenic ingestion. Jasmine rice from Thailand is a good alternative.

      The real problem is that rice and its by-products are in a lot of food: rice flour, rice syrup, etc that everyone eats such as cereal bars. You can’t wash those products.

  15. 15
    DDD says:

    I once managed a lab for a chemical company who had some hydroponic growers as customers.

    They ordered a special liquid concoction from us that was ‘interesting’. It contained arsenic, cadmium, copper, iodine, lead, chrome and several other poisonous metallic compounds. The final concentrated product was one of the most deadly mixes that I have ever held in my hand. The customer used it to add to the water tank that flodded the plant roots and provided the soil-less fertilizer for the Tomatoes they were growing.

    Don’t Panic !

    I visited their greenhouse facility. They had a large chart posted several places around the greenhouses with about 50 images of tomato leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit. Each one showed the results of various diseases, so the workers could quickly identify any problem they might see on the plants.

    Most of those problems, diseases, were the result of a SHORTAGE of one of the ‘deadly’, ‘poisonous’ compounds mentioned above. All of these materials are needed in a small quantity for the health of a tomato … or for a human!

    They used our ‘deadly’ mix to control these infestations and deficiencies. These metallic compounds are normally pulled from the soil as the plant needs them. Over-used or depleted soils, and hydroponic greenhouse waters don’t always have enough of them.

    So , as I said, you want to proceed with caution, but don’t panic. We all need some arsenic in our food, some lead, some cadmium, some copper and zinc, even some cyanide (aren’t almonds and peaches great)… to help us fend off disease.

    So, always listen to several ‘opposing’ experts before rejecting a food because of slightly elevated ‘poisonous’ nutrients. We need some ‘poisons’ to kill bacteria and their ilk. After all, aren’t most medications poisonous?

  16. 16

    Thanks for sounding the bell! Sending this out to many friends as we speak.

  17. 17
    Linda says:

    For now, this has gotten me to try corn pasta by DeBoles. This way I do not eat rice pasta three times a week. But when I think of all the gluten-free products containing rice flour, it is difficult not to eat products containing rice, especially in gluten-free breads. I guess the best way to eat is to avoid more grains and up the veggie, fruits and nuts intake (I’m a vegetarian.) When I crave a wrap for a burrito, I’ll use the corn ones. Everything in moderation. One day they might say something negative about corn. Thanks for the info.

  18. 18
    Saira says:

    @ Linda – most corn is GMO. There’s always something . I wish we could just have food that hasn’t been messed with.

    Looking forward to the followup.

  19. 19
    Kelly says:

    This may be a silly question, but does it make any difference if the rice is labelled organic?


      Kelly, it doesn’t matter if it is organic or not. Inorganic arsenic is in the soil. Rice sucks it up. Rice doesn’t need to be flooded as evidenced by how Lotus Foods grows their rice.

      There is an agricultural solution (s) to this problem. Another reason why I started my petition.


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Kelly Courson


Thanks for stopping by! I'm Kelly Courson and this is where I've shared my gluten-free finds since 2003. The world has been my gluten-free oyster for 14 years now and I love sharing what I've learned in order to help others adapt to a gluten-free diet. Have a look around and feel free to leave a comment. Connecting with people like you is what has kept me going this long! Seriously.

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