Lawmakers Announce Legislation to Limit Arsenic in Rice

Lawmakers Announce Legislation to Limit Arsenic in Rice

Congress members say the government has an obligation to ensure food safety.

Representatives Rosa Delauro, D-Conn., Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. announced Friday their intent to introduce legislation that would limit the amount of arsenic in rice.

The announcement stems from a Consumer Reports study released Wednesday that found "concerning" levels of arsenic in rice and rice-based products. The report urged the Food and Drug administration, which monitors arsenic levels in food, to institute a federal limit on the amount of arsenic (organic or inorganic) that is allowed in rice.

Congress members say the government has an obligation to ensure food safety.

Though the FDA is currently analyzing 1,000 samples of rice and rice products to determine if limits should be implemented, their study will not be complete until the end of the year.

The bill, titled the R.I.C.E Act, or Reducing food-based Inorganic and organic Compounds Exposure Act, would require the FDA to implement a maximum level of arsenic in rice or foods containing rice, regardless if the results of their study match the results tabulated by Consumer Reports.

Rep. DeLauro said in a press statement that the bill was a "step in the right direction" to limiting arsenic levels in rice.

The current FDA threshold for bottled water is 10 parts per billion, though no other foods have arsenic levels. The Consumer Reports study used 5 ppb as a threshold for rice.

"The idea that high levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen, are present in rice, cereal and other common, everyday foods is absolutely outrageous," DeLauro said.  "The federal government has an obligation to every American family to ensure that the food they consume is safe and should not make them sick."

Despite recent concern over arsenic in rice, the USA Rice Federation said Consumer Reports study is inaccurate.

"[The study] employs an 'arsenic content standard' that simply doesn't exist in federal law. It cites federal health data to allege health risk from arsenic ingestion when that data is based on arsenic excreted from, rather than absorbed by, the body. It offers consumption advice without addressing all of the relevant public health issues that must be taken into account," a statement from USA Rice said.

South Korea has also taken notice of the rice scare. The country's Agriculture ministry said Friday that it would suspend sales and imports pending additional studies surrounding arsenic levels. According to a statement from the ministry, the country planned to import 90,901 tonnes of rice this year.

Though Consumer Reports recommended diversifying diets following the release of the report, the FDA said consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet with a variety of grains, and did not advise against eating rice.

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