Arsenic in My Rice?

by Brooke Bernard on September 26, 2012

We all know I’ve hopped on the “crazy mom” food train. Between my children’s food allergies to dairy and (more mildly) to soy and their terrifying reactions to toxic, petroleum based food dyes, I’m reading ingredient labels and food-in-the-news articles every time I turn around.

If you don’t live in a hole, you’ve probably heard the alarming headlines that rice contains arsenic – a potentially deadly chemical compound famous for poisoning abusive husbands and the like in crime show after crime show. This news isn’t actually new. It circulated a few months ago among the “natural” and “hippie” news and food sites. For some reason, though, the mainstream media is suddenly ready to look out for consumers. Must be a slow news week. (If anyone can figure out why they’re ready to take down rice farmers but not Nestle or even Monsanto and the other manufacturers that continue to use toxic ingredients, let me know.)

Anyway, as the mainstream media is apt to do, they did manage to alarm me. My dairy-allergic daughter has been drinking rice milk every day for almost 3 years. Every day. We’re talking, probably 32 ounces a day. Sure, she was drinking organic rice milk. But what does this news mean for her? Should I rush out for an arsenic poisoning test? And what do you do about arsenic poisoning anyway?

After reading about a billion articles on the subject, here’s what I’ve managed to take away. And maybe it will help you out, too.

-          Don’t eat rice every day.

-          Try to buy rice from the Western United States. Think California. This rice tests with much lower levels of arsenic.

-          Try to buy rice from India. There is a type of rice called “basmati” that our family has been eating for years. It’s delicious and is supposed to be more digestible than traditional rice.

-          Check your cereal. If you can, try switching away from rice based breakfast food.

-          There are two different types of arsenic:  Organic and inorganic. Organic in this case doesn’t mean “grown by super awesome farmers who care about your family and curse chemicals.” It refers, instead, to arsenic that comes from living organisms. Our bodies can more easily detoxify organic arsenic than its evil twin inorganic arsenic – in other words, folks, we usually pee most of it out if we ingest it. Apparently, and this is just my best understanding, a lot of the arsenic found in rice is organic, so it doesn’t as readily bioaccumlate (oh yeah, big word time!) in our bodies as the inorganic kind does. So, head on over to the toilet, dear reader, and start peeing.

-          If, on a daily basis, your kid drinks 32 ounces of rice milk, go ahead and make the switch to some other kind of dairy substitute such as almond or coconut milk – at least until someone tells us why we can’t drink that either.

For more information about the levels of arsenic found in the rice products your family loves, check out this link: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/arsenic1112.htm#chart.

 

{ 3 comments }

Jenny September 26, 2012 at 9:39 am

Duuude. Is nothing safe anymore? My dog eats rice in his food twice a day, every day. (Special diet from the vet, don’t ask.) Should I get him arsenic tested? Oy vey!

Happy Little Feet September 27, 2012 at 10:37 am

Wow I am really shocked after reading this. Thank God we have been eating quinoa more because of its high protein. This is pretty scary. We are allergic to dairy and soy too! Our kids love coconut milk. They have always hated rice milk. Great post.

BrookeB October 2, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Thanks, Happy Little Feet! It really is shocking! Seems like every time we turn around…

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