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Beware of Arsenic in Food: Contaminated Rice

By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors

Tags: arsenic in food, contaminated rice, rice contamination, arsenate pesticides, arsenic-laced feed, large-scale poultry, mother jones,

Rice bagConsumer Reports has recently stated that it found significant levels of arsenic in a variety of US rice products including organic and brown rice, rice-based cereal and even baby formula. So much arsenic has been found that according to a Consumer Reports analysis of a major population study, people who consume a single serving of rice get a 44 percent spike in the arsenic level in their urine. This is particularly disturbing because arsenic is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a “group 1” carcinogen making it among the world’s most potent cancer inducers

Rice is commonly grown in water-flooded conditions which makes it particularly susceptible to harmful contaminants taken up by the plant’s roots and stored in the grains. The cause of the recent rice contamination has been traced to two sources. First, the United State’s rice fields are often placed in areas that once grew cotton, cotton was sprayed with arsenate pesticides prior to the 1980s and many of the potent chemicals continue to lay dormant in the soil. The second cause is linked to the arsenic-laced feed given to industrially raised chickens in order to control a common bug and create an “appetizing” pink hue on the chicken’s flesh. Large-scale poultry producers hand over their chicken manure, bedding and spilled feed to nearby rice farmers who unknowingly apply the substance at a rate of one to three tons per acre. For more information regarding the recent rice contamination and to learn how to avoid excessive arsenic exposure see the Mother Jones article "Waiter, There's Arsenic in My Rice." 

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