Arsenic in rice milk??

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Arsenic in rice milk??

Postby Maria » Thu Jul 02, 2009 4:56 am

Hi Jeff :)

In Denmark (where I live) soy and rice milks are becoming more popular every day - thankfully! However, in the news there are constant claims about the negatives side of these "milks" as well. First it was phyto-estrogens in soy milk. That one we're pretty much over. But now the issue of arsenic in rice milk has come up. I've been searching the web but can't find reliable information. Du you know anything about this? I would be very surprised if it's something people actually need to worry about, I mean rice is a stable food in so many countries, and rice milk is only made with what - 10 % rice!? Or is it something in the manufacturing that causes the problem..??

Make me wiser :P Thanks! :-)
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Re: Arsenic in rice milk??

Postby JeffN » Thu Jul 02, 2009 5:42 am

Maria wrote:Hi Jeff :)

In Denmark (where I live) soy and rice milks are becoming more popular every day - thankfully! However, in the news there are constant claims about the negatives side of these "milks" as well. First it was phyto-estrogens in soy milk. That one we're pretty much over. But now the issue of arsenic in rice milk has come up. I've been searching the web but can't find reliable information. Du you know anything about this? I would be very surprised if it's something people actually need to worry about, I mean rice is a stable food in so many countries, and rice milk is only made with what - 10 % rice!? Or is it something in the manufacturing that causes the problem..??

Make me wiser :P Thanks! :-)

Hi Maria

While these products may be a better alternative than dairy milks, these products are not health foods and if included in ones diet, they should be used as a condiment and contribute very little to the total caloric intake of ones day. They are not necessary and can be avoided completely if one wanted to.

The arsenic issue has been around for a few years and is due to chemicals used in the growing of the rice. You can read more about it below.

Many people in this forum who use rice milk make their own (Which may be the best choice)and you can find recipes on how to do this in the other forums

In Health
Jeff ... e-milk.htm

U.K. Agency Releases Research on Arsenic in Rice Milk
Monday May 25, 2009

The United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency (akin to the FDA here in the United States) just published research regarding arsenic levels in rice drinks. As a result, they've issued the following advice regarding toddlers:

"As a precaution, toddlers and young children between 1 and 4.5 years old should not have rice drinks as a replacement for cows’ milk, breast milk, or infant formula. This is because they will then drink a relatively large amount of it, and their intake of arsenic will be greater than that of older children and adults relative to their bodyweight."

According to the recent study, arsenic was found in all 60 samples tested, but the levels found were below legal limits. Those limits were set in the 1950s, however, before it was known that the inorganic form of arsenic can cause cancer. While there are low levels of arsenic in many foods and all around us, the inorganic type is found in higher levels in rice drinks, thus the cause for concern. There are also no uniform regulations for arsenic levels in the European Union but a risk assessment coming out this September may result in the development of EU-wide regulations.

Closer to home, no warnings have been issued regarding rice milk and arsenic levels by the FDA or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency thus far.
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Postby peaceridge » Fri Jul 03, 2009 5:15 am

"The arsenic issue has been around for a few years and is due to chemicals used in the growing of the rice."

Is this an issue, then, for those of us who use rice as our main starch? I eat a lot of rice! And is it only for rice grown in certain countries?

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Postby Maria » Sun Jul 05, 2009 12:06 am

Thanks Jeff!! That cleared things up
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Postby ThatGirl156 » Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:53 am

peaceridge wrote:"The arsenic issue has been around for a few years and is due to chemicals used in the growing of the rice."

Is this an issue, then, for those of us who use rice as our main starch? I eat a lot of rice! And is it only for rice grown in certain countries?

I'm very interested to know the answer to these questions as well.
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Location: Canada, eh!?

Postby JeffN » Sat Dec 05, 2009 5:46 am

While the potential for this to be a problem exists, I don't know it to be one right now. I still consume brown rice on a regular basis and we serve it every day at the McDougall programs.

However, if you are concerned about the potential for Arsenic in rice, then you could eliminate rice from your intake. There are many other non-allergenic starches including millet, buchwheat, corn, quinoa, and also starchy vegetables, like winter squashes, and of course, the sweet potato, which may be one of the least allergenic foods.

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Postby vickidau » Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:19 pm

I emailed Lungberg foods - a rice grower and distributor. They sent me their "arsenic fact statement" Their website is This was their statement:

Arsenic Fact Sheet

US Rice Facts

1. U.S. rice is safe a safe and wholesome food. According to recent research by U.S. scientists, arsenic levels in U.S. rice are nearly 10 times lower than limits established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for food. FDA limits range from 500 parts per billion (ppb) to 2,000 ppb.

2. There has been no incident in which arsenic in U.S. rice has led to any reported human health problem.

3. The limited rice samples measured as part of the research reported by A.A. Meharg and others in a recent environmental science journal are not nationally representative for U.S. rice. The reported arsenic content for U.S. rice they report is well within the safe, acceptable limits suggested by FDA.

4. Furthermore, the authors present such a limited sample that it is not possible to make accurate inferences about any nation’s rice crop, let alone international comparisons. The authors have simply not offered a systematic study from which to draw any definitive conclusions. Such a study does not yet exist in scientific literature.

5. Research findings by other independent scientists dispute the Meharg conclusions about arsenic in U.S. rice. According to an August 3 news story in USA Today, for example, John Duxbury, a professor of soil chemistry at Cornell University in New York, said “While the Scottish team bought seven samples of rice in supermarkets in Aberdeen, Cornell University scientists tested 25 samples and found arsenic levels of 0.18 micrograms per gram of U.S. rice.” That is less than half the amount reported by Meharg, et al.

6. U.S. rice shipments are frequently tested for contaminants, and arsenic has not been found in elevated levels.

7. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in varying degrees in all soils and water, with lower levels for water in U.S. rice-producing regions than in other parts of the United States and much of the world, according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) studies. Where arsenic contamination has been an issue outside the United States, groundwater contamination was a significant factor. The arsenic concentrations in groundwater throughout most of the United States — including rice-producing regions — are approximately 1 microgram per liter, well under proposed U.S. EPA standards, which is an assessment based on tens of thousands of USGS samples.

California Rice Facts
1. Concerns raised in the Nature study focus on rice plantings following cotton production. In California, rice is not commonly grown in rotation with other crops including cotton.

2. The use of arsenic based pesticides has not occurred in California since 1994, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cancelled all registrations of arsenic products. Arsenic acid was not widely used on cotton in California, and rice has never been grown on old cotton ground. However, sodium arsenite use on grapes was limited entirely to California, and grapes are not grown in the rice growing regions of the State. In addition to strict federal standards, California requires additional scientific review of all materials applied to rice fields.
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Re: Arsenic in rice milk??

Postby JeffN » Mon Dec 07, 2009 6:44 pm

Thanks for the article, though I am always cautious of "promotional" material that comes from the industry and/or a company. Why would the rice industry and/or rice companies be more trustworthy or their product, then lets say the Dairy industry?

Here is an article from

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 June; 115(6): A296.
PMCID: PMC1892142

At one point during the reign of King Cotton, farmers in the south central United States controlled boll weevils with arsenic-based pesticides, and residual arsenic still contaminates the soil. Today, rice paddies cover fields where cotton once grew, and a large market basket survey published in the 1 April 2007 issue of Environmental Science & Technology now shows that rice grown in this area contains, on average, 1.76 times more arsenic than rice grown in California. With rice consumption increasing steadily in the United States, high-rice diets may be of concern, says principal investigator Andrew Meharg, chair of biogeochemistry at the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom.

Arkansas produces about half and California about 20% of the total rice grown in the United States. The rest comes from Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Missouri, and Florida. The total U.S. rice crop for 2004 was 6.4 million metric tons, or 1.6% of total world production, according to the USDA.

USDA data further show that U.S. rice tends to be milled and packaged close to where it is grown. About 60% of the rice grown in the United States is eaten here, and this figure has been increasing by about 2–3% a year. Rice is eaten directly or processed into breakfast cereal, rice cakes, package mixes, pet food, and beer. U.S. rice also is exported to South America, Asia, and Europe. Meharg’s team purchased 134 varieties of rice, including brown, white, organic, polished, unpolished, and instant, at grocery stores across Arkansas and California.

Meharg traced where the rice varieties originated from information on the packages and by performing a principal component analysis of selenium, cobalt, copper, and other minerals in the grain. “This elemental profile directly relates rice to soil on which it is grown,” says Meharg.

Total arsenic levels in the 107 south central rice samples averaged 0.30 μg/g, compared to an average of 0.17 μg/g in the 27 California samples. A white rice sample from Louisiana ranked highest in total arsenic (0.66 μg/g), and an organic brown rice from California ranked lowest (0.10 μg/g). Organic growing conditions, however, do not guarantee low arsenic levels, since any rice growing in arsenic-laden soil soaks up arsenic, says Meharg.

U.S. rice consumption averages about 12 grams daily, but Asian Americans average more than 115 grams daily; Hispanic and black consumers also have higher-than-average rice intakes. The U.S. EPA, which classifies inorganic arsenic as a group A human carcinogen, sets a daily limit at 10 μg/L from drinking water (the most frequent route of exposure). There is no U.S. standard for arsenic in food. However, Meharg calculated that people who eat more than 115 grams of high-arsenic rice could reach or surpass the drinking water standard.

“High-arsenic” in this instance is based on the Louisiana sample that scored highest in arsenic content, assuming that the arsenic content was 42% inorganic, as measured by Meharg in a study published in the 1 August 2005 issue of Environmental Science & Technology. Rice grown in Bangladesh, the world’s hot spot for arsenic poisoning, contains about 80% inorganic arsenic, and people there eat 450 grams daily.

Rice is recommended as a substitute for wheat for people with celiac disease, a condition in which the wheat protein gluten damages the intestinal lining and impairs absorption. Celiac disease afflicts 1 in 133 Americans. Gluten-free diets also are promoted for children with autistic spectrum disorders, although no clear scientific evidence supports the use of such a diet. Estimates published in the November 2001 issue of Pediatrics put the prevalence of autistic spectrum disorders at 6.7 children per 1,000, with 15% of these children on gluten-free diets.

The arsenic levels in U.S. rice “are possibly cause for concern,” says John Duxbury, a soil chemist at Cornell University. He completed a market basket analysis of rice purchased in upstate New York that, like Meharg’s, found high levels of arsenic in rice grown in the south central United States. But Duxbury points out that the findings are perhaps less straightforward than they may seem. In contrast to Meharg’s calculations, the U.S. rice sample with the highest arsenic in Duxbury’s unpublished analysis contained only 22% inorganic arsenic. Moreover, Duxbury’s greenhouse experiments show that farmers could significantly reduce rice arsenic levels by applying less water to the plants. Other researchers are designing rice plants that absorb less arsenic.

“Until this all gets sorted out, consumers shouldn’t be overly concerned,” Duxbury says. Nevertheless, rice fanciers might note that both Duxbury and Meharg found basmati rice imported from India and Pakistan and jasmine rice from Thailand to contain the least arsenic.

In Health
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Re: Arsenic in rice milk??

Postby JeffN » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:00 pm

Here is some fairly recent information from The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). There are several comments about arsenic and rice in the summary statement.

In Health

You can read the full document here

Scientific Opinion on Arsenic in Food
Question number: EFSA-Q-2008-425
Adopted: 12 October 2009
Last updated: 27 September 2010


Arsenic is a metalloid that occurs in different inorganic and organic forms, which are found in the environment both from natural occurrence and from anthropogenic activity. The inorganic forms of arsenic are more toxic as compared to the organic arsenic but so far most of the occurrence data in food collected in the framework of official food control are still reported as total arsenic without differentiating the various arsenic species. The need for speciation data is evident because several investigations have shown that especially in seafood most of the arsenic is present in organic forms that are less toxic. Consequently, a risk assessment not taking into account the different species but considering total arsenic as being present exclusively as inorganic arsenic would lead to a considerable overestimation of the health risk related to dietary arsenic exposure.

Following a call for data, 15 European countries submitted more than 100,000 results on arsenic concentrations in various food commodities. Two thirds of the samples were below the limit of detection. Approximately 98 % of the results were reported as total arsenic, and only a few investigations differentiated between the various arsenic species. The highest total arsenic levels were measured in the following food commodities: fish and seafood, food products or supplements based on algae, especially hijiki, and cereal and cereal products, with particularly high concentrations in rice grains and rice-based products, and bran and germ. Depending on the type of food processing, temperature and time, changes in total arsenic concentration and arsenic species may occur. The arsenic content in cooking water seems to be of special importance because it determines whether the arsenic concentrations in the prepared food may be higher or lower compared to the raw product.

As representative speciation data are scarce, the EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the food chain (CONTAM Panel) was not able to assess the typical ratios between inorganic and organic arsenic in different groups of foodstuffs. Consequently, the CONTAM Panel had to make a number of assumptions for the estimation of the contribution of inorganic arsenic to total arsenic in the exposure assessment based on the few data on inorganic arsenic submitted by the reporting European countries, as well as on key literature data. Thus, the proportion of inorganic arsenic was assumed to vary from 50 to 100 % of the total arsenic reported in food commodities other than fish and seafood, with 70 % considered as best reflecting an overall average. In fish and seafood the relative proportion of inorganic arsenic is small and tends to decrease as the total arsenic content increases, and the ratio may vary depending on the seafood type. Based on the limited data on inorganic arsenic in the present dataset and on published data, fixed values for inorganic arsenic of 0.03 mg/kg in fish and 0.1 mg/kg in seafood were considered realistic for calculating human dietary exposure.

Given the above assumptions, the national inorganic arsenic exposures from food and water across 19 European countries, using lower bound and upper bound concentrations, have been estimated to range from 0.13 to 0.56 µg/kg body weight (b.w.) per day for average consumers, and from 0.37 to 1.22 µg/kg b.w. per day for 95th percentile consumers. The minimum and maximum dietary exposure varied by a factor of 2 to 3 across the 19 European countries, based on different dietary habits rather than different occurrence data. Extrapolating from the main food categories of the EFSA Concise Food Consumption Database the food subclasses of cereal grains and cereal based products, followed by food for special dietary uses, bottled water, coffee and beer, rice grains and rice based products, fish and vegetables were identified as largely contributing to the inorganic arsenic daily exposure in the general European population.

High consumers of rice in Europe, such as certain ethnic groups, are estimated to have a daily dietary exposure of inorganic arsenic of about 1 µg/kg b.w. per day, and high consumers of algae-based products can have dietary exposure of inorganic arsenic of about 4 µg/kg b.w. per day. The limited available evidence does not indicate a different dietary exposure for vegetarians from that of the general population, unless they consume a large amount of algae-based products.

Children under three years of age are the most exposed to inorganic arsenic. Exposure estimates reported in two different studies show an inorganic arsenic intake ranging from 0.50 to 2.66 µg/kg b.w. per day. Dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic for children under three years old, including from rice-based foods, is in general estimated to be about 2 to 3-fold that of adults. These estimates do not include milk intolerant children substituting rice-drinks for formula or cows’ milk.

Compared to dietary exposure, non-dietary exposure to arsenic is likely to be of minor importance for the general population in the European Union (EU).

High inter-species, inter-population and inter-individual variability was reported for arsenic metabolism and toxicokinetics. Because experimental animals differ considerably from humans with regard to arsenic metabolism and other aspects of toxicokinetics, the results of toxicity studies in animals do not provide a suitable basis for risk characterisation.

In humans, soluble inorganic arsenic is rapidly and nearly completely absorbed after ingestion. Absorption of different organic arsenic compounds is generally greater than 70 %. After being absorbed, arsenic is widely distributed to almost all organs and readily crosses the placental barrier. Biotransformation of inorganic arsenic in mammals includes reduction of pentavalent arsenic to trivalent arsenic and methylation of trivalent arsenic.

The CONTAM Panel noted that, since the provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) of 15 µg/kg b.w. was established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), new data had established that inorganic arsenic causes cancer of the lung and urinary tract in addition to skin, and that a range of adverse effects had been reported at exposures lower than those reviewed by the JECFA. Therefore the CONTAM Panel concluded that the JECFA PTWI of 15 µg/kg b.w. is no longer appropriate and, in its assessment, focussed on more recent data showing effects at lower doses of inorganic arsenic than those considered by the JECFA.

The main adverse effects reported to be associated with long term ingestion of inorganic arsenic in humans are skin lesions, cancer, developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, cardiovascular diseases, abnormal glucose metabolism, and diabetes. Neurotoxicity is mainly reported with acute exposure from deliberate poisoning or suicide, or at high concentrations in drinking water. Evidence of cardiovascular disease (Blackfoot disease, peripheral vascular disease, coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction and stroke) and diabetes in areas with relatively low levels of inorganic arsenic exposure is inconclusive. There is emerging evidence of negative impacts on foetal and infant development, particularly reduced birth weight, and there is a need for further evidence regarding the dose-response relationships and critical exposure times for these outcomes.

Therefore the data for cancers of the urinary bladder, lung and skin, which are causally associated with oral exposure to inorganic arsenic, and skin lesions were considered by the CONTAM Panel as possibly providing an appropriate reference point. A limitation in all of the available studies is that total dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic was not measured. In most studies, the concentration of arsenic in drinking water was used as the exposure metric. Urinary or toenail arsenic has been used in a smaller number of studies. In order to provide an opinion on the risks to health related to the presence of inorganic arsenic in foodstuffs, it is necessary to make assumptions about the total dietary exposure of the populations in which the respective health endpoints were studied. The CONTAM Panel noted that underestimating the total dietary exposure in the study populations will lead to an underestimation of the reference point and, consequently, to an overestimation of the risk when considering the total dietary exposure of EU countries in this opinion, and vice versa, and concluded that it would be appropriate to identify a range of possible total dietary exposures in the key epidemiological studies.

The CONTAM Panel modelled the dose-response data from the key epidemiological studies and also noted other reported dose-response modelling results. A benchmark response of 1 % extra risk was selected because it could be within the range of the observed data. Because of the uncertainties in the exposure in the key epidemiological studies, the CONTAM Panel identified a range of values for the 95 % lower confidence limit of the benchmark dose of 1 % extra risk (BMDL01) for each endpoint. The lowest BMDL01 values are for lung cancer. These data are from a study that is relatively small but has the advantage that the population is likely to have a nutritional and genetic background that is more similar to that of EU populations than those of the rural Asian populations, for which most of the epidemiological data are available. In contrast, the data for skin lesions are from larger populations and show a high degree of consistency between studies. Arsenic exposure is considered to be a necessary but not sufficient cause of dermal lesions and given that the observations of dermal lesions mainly originate from rural Asian communities with high levels of arsenic in the water, it is possible that the findings were influenced by other factors such as nutritional status. The CONTAM Panel therefore concluded that the overall range of BMDL01 values of 0.3 to 8 μg/kg b.w. per day should be used instead of a single reference point in the risk characterisation for inorganic arsenic.

The CONTAM Panel noted that inorganic arsenic is not directly DNA-reactive and there are a number of proposed mechanisms of carcinogenicity such as oxidative damage, epigenetic effects and interference with DNA damage repair, for each of which a threshold mechanism could be postulated. However, taking into account the uncertainty with respect to the shape of the dose-response relationships, it was not considered appropriate to identify from the human data a dose of inorganic arsenic with no appreciable health risk, i.e. a tolerable daily or weekly intake. Therefore an assessment should be made of the margins of exposure (MOEs) between the identified reference points from the human data and the estimated dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic in the EU population.

The estimated dietary exposures to inorganic arsenic for average and high level consumers in Europe are within the range of the BMDL01 values identified by the CONTAM Panel, and therefore there is little or no MOE and the possibility of a risk to some consumers cannot be excluded. Consumer groups with higher exposure levels include high consumers of rice, such as certain ethnic groups, and high consumers of algae-based products. The estimated dietary exposures of these groups are also within the range of the BMDL01 values. Infants below 6 months of age fed on only breast-milk, or on cows’ milk formula reconstituted with water containing arsenic at the average European concentration, have the lowest estimated dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic. The estimated dietary exposures of children are higher than those of adults, due to their greater food consumption relative to their body weight. However, this does not necessarily indicate that children are at greater risk because the effects are due to long term exposure and the exposure estimates are also within the range of BMDL01 values.

Of the organic forms of arsenic, arsenobetaine, which is the major form in fish and most seafood, is widely assumed to be of no toxicological concern. Arsenosugars and arsenolipids are mainly metabolised in humans to dimethylarsinate, but no specific information is available regarding their toxicity. For other organoarsenic compounds no human toxicity data are available. Because of the lack of data, arsenosugars, arsenolipids, methylarsonate and dimethylarsinate could not be considered in the risk characterisation.

The CONTAM Panel recommended that dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic should be reduced. In order to refine risk assessment of inorganic arsenic there is a need to produce speciation data for different food commodities to support dietary exposure assessment and dose-response data for the possible health effects.
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Re: Arsenic in rice milk??

Postby energy_dad » Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:37 am

I just got off the phone with Bob's Red Mill and they said that their rice is grown in California and does not have arsenic in it. They said their rice was government tested (whatever that means). They said anyone can call them to verify.
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