Study calls for warning labels on rice over risky arsenic levels

Rice, an inexpensive staple food consumed around the world, naturally contains a deadly toxin called arsenic. This toxin is found in low quantities, meaning that a bowl of rice doesn't pose a risk to one's health. However, the levels of arsenic found in rice vary and past studies have raised concerns over how much rice can be safely consumed. The latest among them calls for a warning label to be added to packages of rice.READ: Study finds gluten-free diets may be high in arsenic and mercury

Researchers with the University of Sheffield evaluated a total of 55 rice samples from UK grocery stores, including the commonly consumed white and brown rice varieties. Of those samples, the study found that 28 rice samples contained levels of arsenic that exceeded European regulations on what can be safely consumed by young kids and infants.

Of those 28 varieties, the study reports that infants under the age of 1 would need to be limited to no more than 20 grams of rice per day in light of the arsenic levels. Children are particularly at risk of consuming unsafe arsenic levels because of their low body weights — too much arsenic in one's diet can increase the risk of developing cancer later in life, among other things.

Of the high-arsenic rice samples, the study found that brown rice contained the highest quantity of the toxin due to the presence of the bran layer. As well, organic rice was found to have higher levels of arsenic compared to non-organic rice, and white rice was found to have the lowest arsenic levels.

Study lead author Dr. Manoj Menon said:

Brown and wild rice are healthy foods full of fiber and vitamins, and there is no need for grown-ups to avoid them – but it is concerning to see so many varieties sold in the UK breaching food safety regulations ... The government and the European Commission must introduce labeling to warn people of arsenic levels in rice to enable families to make informed food choices.