Concern over inorganic arsenic levels in rice products

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is recommending that methods to minimise the levels of inorganic arsenic in rice products should be investigated in the light of recent dietary exposure studies in the German population.

Analyses of rice and rice products in Germany have shown that many contain relatively high concentrations of carcinogenic inorganic arsenic. Some products, such as rice cakes, were found to contain more inorganic arsenic than rice grains, but the reason for this is not known.

The BfR has calculated the intake of toxic inorganic arsenic compounds through the consumption of rice and rice products in Germany and concludes that they could make a significant contribution to the overall intake, especially in children. “Because inorganic arsenic compounds are classified as carcinogenic for humans, foodstuffs should only contain as little as reasonably achievable,” says BfR President Professor Dr Dr Andreas Hensel.

The Institute is advising food manufacturers to investigate the reasons why some rice products contain appreciably higher levels of arsenic than unprocessed rice grains and to look at methods of minimising contamination. It has also welcomed a recent European Commission decision to introduce maximum levels for inorganic arsenic in rice and rice products within the EU.

The BfR is also advising consumers, particularly parents of young children, coeliacs and the gluten intolerant, not to focus solely on rice-based foods and drinks as alternatives to other cereals.

The BfR statement can be found in full here.

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