Is There Lead in Your Rice? You Should Check
Recently we were warned about arsenic in rice, and now another danger appears to be lead. New research indicates that rice imported from some countries has high levels of lead. It’s time to check the rice in your pantry and learn more about lead in your rice.
Looking for lead in your rice?
Rice is a staple food for about 3 billion people around the world, so when there’s a warning about the presence of a toxic substance in that food, it’s a cause for alarm. Of particular concern is the fact that infants and young children are especially susceptible to the health hazards associated with lead poisoning.
Information about the presence of lead in rice was presented at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans on April 10. According to the head of the study, Tsanangurayi Tongesayi, PhD, of Monmouth University in New Jersey, “the daily exposure levels from eating the rice products analyzed in this study would be 30-60 times higher than the FDA’s [Food and Drug Administration] provisional total tolerable intake (PTTI) levels” for infants and children.
The level of lead in imported rice was reported to be 6 to 12 milligrams per kilogram. Using this information, the authors determined the daily level of exposure for infants, children, and adults and compared them with the FDA’s PTTI levels for lead.
Lead exposure and lead poisoning among infants and children has been a topic of considerable concern for many decades, but much of the focus has been on lead paint in homes and other facilities where children might have access to lead paint, which has a sweet taste that attracts kids. Children are also exposed to lead paint used on toys, kids’ jewelry, and school supplies.
Which rice has lead?
The study’s authors analyzed rice samples imported from Asia, Europe, and South America. Highest levels of lead were found in rice from China and Taiwan, followed by Bhutan, Czech Republic, India, Italy, and Thailand, which all showed significant amounts as well.
Chances are the rice in your pantry is from the United States, as only 7 percent of the rice consumed in America is imported. For now, the United States is both a major exporter and producer of rice, with Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas serving as important rice producing states.
This balance could change, however, as rice exports from Asia, Europe, and South America continue to increase. Since 1999, imports of rice and rice flour have increased more than 200 percent.
One warning about the rice grown in the United States, however, concerns arsenic. According to a 2012 Consumer Report study, white rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas, which make up more than three-quarters of US rice production, tended to have higher levels of arsenic than samples from other states.
You can reduce your exposure to arsenic by rinsing raw rice before you cook it. Preparing rice the traditional way—6 cups of water to 1 cup rice for cooking and then draining the excess water when the rice is done—helps remove some arsenic as well.
The next time you shop for rice, check out the country of origin. While rice grown in the United States may contain arsenic, you also need to ask, is there lead in your rice?
American Chemical Society
Consumer Reports Investigation November 2012