Arsenic in US-grown rice.

05 Oct

It seems to me that there are a few reasons to have a government as opposed to living with free-range anarchy.  One of the major reasons is that a government can better protect the welfare of the people and the commons, rather than an every-man-for-himself system which would allow the powerful to simply plunder and lay waste to the commons and kill competitors at their whim.  This is ostensibly the purpose of collecting taxes – to fund agencies and departments that see to the common good of the country.  The founding fathers considered the welfare of the people a prime concern of the government they were attempting to set up.

In the Declaration of Independence we find this complaint about King George III:
“[…]He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good

The Constitution opens with this:
“We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.[…]”

There were obvious blind spots in the brains of the Founders, of course; these guys were not perfect.  Let’s acknowledge that it seems passing strange that the same men who felt the king of England was not looking out for their best interests also included as a grievance that he wasn’t protecting them from the “savages” well enough – these would be the same Indians who lived here for thousands of years before the colonists arrived and whose land we invaded.   (“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”)  And famously, despite all men being “created equal”, they went on to affirm the right to own slaves and bar women and blacks from the vote.  I’m not going to get into all that here; the point is that the welfare of the public was clearly stated as a primary purpose in forming the government of this country.  However, when the agencies being funded to “promote the general welfare” are deliberately allowed to be taken over and run by the industry insiders from the corporations they are supposed to be regulating, the system breaks down.  We can no longer count on the government to see to our welfare because the externalities such as consumer protection and health are completely compromised for the sake of profits for the big companies.  This particular government is not working too well; they seem to have forgotten one of their prime directives.

We have reached the point where Goldman, Sachs guys run the Treasury.  Former bankers and bank lobbyists fill the financial regulatory agencies.  Eric Holder, Obama’s Attorney General, worked as a lawyer for the law firm which devised the MERS scheme to defraud homeowners.  Monsanto people now work in the EPA, the FDA, and the State Dept.  Hillary Clinton herself, our Secretary of State, was once an attorney for Monsanto.  Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, was Monsanto’s VP for Public Policy.  Islam Siddiqui, our ag negotiator trade representative, was a Monsanto lobbyist.

Congressmen regularly take bribes, known colloquially as “donations” or “lobbying cash”, from lobbyists and simply let them write legislation.  Members of Congress are given positions on various committees based on how much they raise in campaign contributions for their parties. (And here you thought Todd Akin sits on the House Committee for Science, Space and Technology and Michele Bachmann on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Financial Services Committee because they are just so damn smart.)  Etc., etc.  You get my drift.  Add to this that the media is mostly owned by a few huge corporations, weapons manufacturers in the main, and we begin to see why no-one is looking out for our welfare and why none of us seems to know about it.

Before I get to the particular issue of arsenic levels in rice, I want to go through a quick list of other things affecting our well-being that you may not have heard about from the mainstream press.

“In May 2011, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it illegal for Transportation Security Administration officials to touch a person’s genitals when carrying out a patdown. The bill failed in the Senate after the Department of Justice threatened to make Texas a no-fly zone if the legislation passed.  []”

TSA agent steals to punish passenger:  This website follows news on the TSA closely.

“[…] After the Fukushima disaster – in an effort to protect the American nuclear industry – the U.S. has joined Japan in raising “acceptable” radiation levels.  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also signed a pact with her counterpart in Japan agreeing that the U.S. will continue buying seafood from Japan, despite the fact that the FDA is refusing to test seafood for radiation in any meaningful fashion. […]” -

Cane sugar is usually not made from GMO sources; beet sugar usually is. If the package does not specifically say ‘pure cane sugar’, it is probably either beet or a combination of both.  Sugar in the US does not have to be labeled as to source.

There is another new leak at the BP Macando site in the Gulf.

One very rich man (Bill Gates) can plan a massive experiment with the atmosphere and risk the health of an entire state or two and will apparently be allowed to just go ahead and play with our lives as he wishes.   Not only are the sulfate particles he is going to seed into the upper atmosphere the same thing that cause the hole in the ozone layer, thereby letting dangerous UV rays through, but there are at least a dozen of other, equally valid and obvious, reasons why this one wealthy asshole should not be allowed to mess with our atmosphere.

This is a bit outdated only in the “stop Taylor from being promoted” petition – he has been appointed and is in his new office.  The rest of the information is still valid.

Okay.  Arsenic in our rice.

Last Wednesday, Consumer Reports came out with a study  [ ] which finds that rice grown in the US, particularly brown rice and particularly that grown in the southern states, has arsenic in it.  The EPA sets limits to how much arsenic is acceptable in water; the amounts found in rice are over those limits.  The FDA, which handles food safety issues, says it will “do a study” as to what might be acceptable and will have some report available “soon”.  Currently there is no legal limit set for allowable amounts of arsenic in food products.

Rice grown in California appears to have much lower amounts of arsenic in it and imported rice none.   Although imported rice is way more expensive than domestic because the US recently switched to rice production and put heavy tariffs on imported rice, there does not seem to be a problem with rice grown overseas and the cost is probably worth it if you eat a lot of rice.

We have known the effects of arsenic on the human body (i.e., it kills you eventually) for more than a hundred years.  I spoke to a chemist about this and he made a few simple remarks:  the idea that arsenic from water and arsenic from food perhaps having different “acceptable” levels is ludicrous.  Your body does not differentiate between sources.  Babies’ bodies are so small that any level of arsenic is just completely unacceptable.  His recommendation was to eat potatoes.

There is also an issue with arsenic in other food products, namely certain juices, which apparently has been known by the FDA for some time. []

Because of the Consumer Reports study, South Korea has announced it will no longer bid on US rice products. []

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – A new report suggests high levels of arsenic may be tied to eating large amounts of rice.

 Consumer Reports released a study stating many common rice products contain “worrisome levels” of arsenic. 

The report said rice eaten just once a day could drive arsenic levels in the human body up 44-percent and if rice was eaten twice a day, the levels can increase 70-percent. 

Consumer Reports said the following were trends they noticed while researching the study:
•    White rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas, which account for 76 percent of domestic rice, generally had higher levels of total arsenic and inorganic arsenic in our tests than rice samples from elsewhere.
•    Within any single brand of rice we tested, the average total and inorganic arsenic levels were always higher for brown rice than for white.
•    People who ate rice had arsenic levels that were 44 percent greater than those who had not, according to our analysis of federal health data. And certain ethnic groups were more highly affected, including Mexicans, other Hispanics, and a broad category that includes Asians.
•    Reducing arsenic in food is feasible. We examined the efforts of two food companies, including Nature’s One, trying to tackle the problem and learned about methods being used to try to reduce arsenic in products.
•    Based on these findings, our experts are asking the Food and Drug Administration to set limits for arsenic in rice products and fruit juices as a starting point.
Arsenic is considered a level 1 carcinogen and has been linked to both lung and bladder cancers.

Consumer Reports said some products tested had more than five times the arsenic found in oat meal, an amount one and a half times more than the EPA’s legal standard for drinking water.

The USA Rice Federation does not dispute that arsenic is in rice but said there is no documented case of illness related to rice.[…]


Arsenic and Rice. Yes, again.
•    By Deborah Blum
•    Email Author
•    September 19, 2012
Today, the magazine Consumer Reports  released a report  on independent laboratory tests that found inorganic arsenic – a known carcinogen – in some 200 rice products purchased in grocery stores across the United States. The admitted point was to pressure the U.S. Food and Drug Administration into setting a safety standard for arsenic in the American food supply, something the FDA has been embarrassingly reluctant to do.

In a neatly choreographed response, the FDA promptly released its own sample results from – yes – some 200 rice products which turned up a comparable amount of inorganic arsenic in the selected foods, which ranged from baby cereal to rice cakes to bagged rice. As The Washington Post reported, the agency also reiterated that it is still testing another 1,000 rice samples and plans to release a more complete report by the end of the year.

As readers of this blog know, there’s nothing incredibly new in these results; scientists have been publishing studies on arsenic in rice for more than a decade. You can find links to some of that research, in an earlier post, The Arsenic Diet. And as I wrote back in February, there’s a straightforward reason for this. Of all the commercially grown grains, the rice plant is best designed to uptake arsenic – a widespread and naturally occurring element – from the soil, using the same mechanisms that allow it to store minerals like silicon that help strengthen the rice grains. It’s not surprising that Consumer Reports found that inorganic arsenic levels in rice cereals were “at least five times more than has been found in alternatives such as oatmeal.”

Still there are a few points from these latest findings that are definitely worth repeating. As the magazine also notes, “White rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas, which accounts for 76 percent of domestic rice, generally had higher levels of total arsenic and inorganic arsenic in our tests than rice samples from elsewhere.”

What does this mean?  Well, first, “total arsenic” refers to the fact that the tests look at two forms, or species, of the poison – organic and inorganic. Organic, of course, refers to an arsenic compound that includes the element carbon. Inorganic arsenic – as an example, the very poisonous compound arsenic trioxide (As2O3) is notably carbon free. And this matters because, as it turns out, the human body does a very reasonable job of metabolizing organic arsenic. In other words, it’s not nearly as risky to us as arsenic in its inorganic forms. As I wrote in a post titled, “Is Arsenic the Worst Chemical in the World?”, inorganic arsenic is basic bad news.

Second, why is rice from the American south popping here? One of the leading theories is that in these states, rice is now growing in fields that used to be home to cotton. For a large part of the 20th century, the primary pesticides used to beat back insects like the boll weevil were lead arsenate compounds, which have left a long-lasting residue in southern soils. There’s another theory – which the magazine Mother Jones has been arguing – that this is related to runoff from nearby chicken farms, thanks to the use of arsenic additives in chicken feed. (Use of these organic arsenic additives has been temporarily suspended due to the finding that they may convert to inorganic arsenic.)

Third, although Southern states produce primarily white rice, recent testing found that arsenic levels overall tend to be higher in brown rice species. This is because as white rice is processed, much of the rice hull is removed and that tends to be a place where the mineral is concentrated. The Dartmouth College toxic metals program offers a very helpful FAQ regarding its own findings on arsenic contamination of brown rice products.

Finally – and this is where the FDA has left all of us hanging – do the levels of inorganic arsenic found in rice pose an actual health threat? So far the agency and, not surprisingly, the USA Rice Federation,  insist not – that these are only trace amounts in a product generally considered a healthy food. And that’s a valid point although it’s unclear what the agency, at least, bases those assurances on as, so far, the only government safety standard comes from the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is aimed at well water.[…]

Of course, this also suggests that we should avoid a rice-rich diet and that some groups who more frequently consume rice – Asians, Latinos, those on a gluten-free diet – may be at more risk. And it’s on this note, I think, that our government is letting us down on the consumer protection front. The general assurances and advice that we eat a varied diet which seems to the current FDA approach is not really a substitute for the very specific answers needed.

Here’s commissioner Margaret Hamberg in an AP story today: “Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains – not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food,” And this is what I call a statement on “one particular food”  that raises questions rather than answers them.[…]


See also:

Regarding rice cereal for babies and brown rice syrup in energy bars and baby food:

[…] A team led by environmental chemist Brian P. Jackson found what Jackson called dangerous amounts of arsenic in organic powdered baby formula, intended for toddlers, whose top ingredient was brown rice syrup. That formula contained six times more arsenic than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for the water supply.

Jackson and his colleagues also reported elevated arsenic levels in some brown rice-sweetened cereal bars, energy bars and energy “shots”consumed by endurance athletes, according to a study published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.The results, which do not identify any products by name, follow recent reports about trace levels of arsenic in apple juice and previous reports of arsenic in rice.

ABC News conducted an online search for baby formula with organic brown rice syrup as the primary ingredient and found two products, Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Toddler Formula and Baby’s Only Organic Soy Toddler Formula, both made by Nature’s One.[…]

Given that organic brown rice syrup “may introduce significant concentrations of arsenic to an individual’s diet,” the researchers saw “an urgent need for regulatory limits on arsenic in food.” Dietary sources of arsenic represent “potentially a big public health issue that has not been taken on board,” Jackson told[…]


Now you know.  There have been and will be no recalls or warning labels.  There will be a study one of these fine days, which may or may not lead to, well, something.  Maybe legislation making it illegal for independent scientists to do investigations and report on their findings.  You are on your own.  And that’s how it works under the corporatocracy.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 5, 2012 in big ag/pharma, Congress, corporatocracy, monsanto


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: