The United States Food and Administration has long been monitoring arsenic levels in rice for decades. They issued several findings saying that the low levels of arsenic in rice will not cause any short-term health issues. However, research says that arsenic can cause long-term effects on health including certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
Arsenic is a known carcinogen. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), oral exposure to lower levels of inorganic arsenic has resulted in effects on the gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, liver, kidney, and blood.
On September 2013, FDA released results of their analysis on 1,100 new samples of rice and other rice products in the purpose to understand and manage possible health risks associated with arsenic especially that rice is now being widely consumed in the United States.
According to Dr. Joseph Graziano, professor of environmental health sciences in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in a report by CBS News, "The number of health effects we contribute to arsenic has grown over time. We've learned arsenic can alter the DNA. It may influence the health outcomes later in life."
Graziano studied arsenic in water and its effects on pregnant women. He found out that higher levels can be a health threat for newborns. Meanwhile, the FDA has started a major probe looking into the long-term effects of low-levels of arsenic in rice. In their consumer update report, they looked into samples of rice and determining two types of arsenic in these products: organic or inorganic arsenic.
Inorganic arsenic is the most toxic form of arsenic. They determined that the level of inorganic arsenic is too low to even cause a short term health problem. However, they need to look into the long-term health effects of arsenic in rice since it is one of the foods often consumed by the people for longer periods of time.
For FDA, the next step is to implement a comprehensive risk assessment according to Suzanne C. Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., the senior advisor for toxicology in FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).
"These are the next steps. To look at exposure levels, to analyze the risk, and determine how to minimize that risk for the overall safety of consumers, including vulnerable groups like children and pregnant women," she said.
Rice has low levels of arsenic because this component is a naturally occurring compound which can be found in soil and water. Since rice is a plant crop, it will eventually be in it.
What's next? FDA is working on some federal partners including U.S Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They will be conducting future studies on the issue of arsenic in rice. They would dwell more on strategies to reduce the levels of the metal in rice and other rice products.