Arsenic In Rice: Expert Says Usual Way Of Cooking Could Leave Traces Of Poison

Potentially dangerous levels of arsenic may remain in rice when it is cooked the way most of us cook it. That was the primary takeaway from an expert’s demonstration of how the usual way of cooking rice may leave traces of the deadly poison.

A report from The Independent looked at the findings of the new research, which suggests that the conventional way of cooking rice, which involves boiling it in a pan and letting the water steam out, may not be enough to prevent traces of arsenic from being eliminated. The poison is known to manifest in rice due to pesticides and other related industrial toxins used when it is bring grown.

According to Cosmopolitan U.K., arsenic exposure has been associated with several health issues, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The report also cited data from the Institute for Global Security, which shows that close to 60 percent of all U.K. rice-based products have “high levels” of arsenic.

Over in America, the Food and Drug Administration’s official guidance on arsenic in rice shows how the government has taken steps to deal with the issue and to understand the risks the toxin carries when found in rice.

“Rice has higher levels of inorganic arsenic than other foods, in part because as rice plants grow, the plant and grain tend to absorb arsenic more readily than other food crops. In April 2016, the FDA proposed an action level, or limit, of 100 parts per billion (ppb) for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal.”

On a related note, Consumer Reports discovered in 2014 that hundreds of rice-based products in the U.S. contain dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic. According to an NBC report, the watchdog group’s analysis had discovered that hot rice cereal for infants and rice pasta had much higher levels of arsenic than it had found in earlier tests. This prompted a recommendation that children refrain from eating these rice-based foods, and limit their consumption to twice a month at most. Talking about actual rice, Consumer Reports found “high levels” of inorganic arsenic in both white and brown rice, especially the latter.

At the present, a lot of these concerns remain, and a leading expert on the matter sought to test his own theories on how the techniques used in cooking rice could influence arsenic levels in it.

Appearing on the BBC television program Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, Queens University Belfast professor of biological sciences Andy Meharg tested three methods of cooking rice to determine which methods would have arsenic remaining in the rice. He tested the conventional “steaming out” method, using two parts water and one part rice, tried using five parts water and one part rice and washing off the excess water, and in the final method, left the rice soaking overnight.

When using the “steaming out” technique, Meharg discovered that this left most of the arsenic in the rice. The second method where more water was used saw arsenic levels cut into half, while the process of soaking the rice overnight reduced the poison’s levels by about 80 percent.

Meharg believes that the best thing to do would be to soak the rice overnight, wash and rinse it until the water is clear, drain the water, and boil the rice in a saucepan with the aforementioned five parts water/one part rice ratio. In short, this represents a combination of the last two methods used on Trust Me, I’m a Doctor.

While Meharg provided some numbers to go with his tests, not everyone is convinced that his findings have some merit in them. Elite Daily pointedly referred to the tests as “bulls*t” and “insane,” and too drawn-out to be worth trying.

“If the trace arsenic in rice was really dangerous, I feel like we’d know by now, given how many people across the world consume it.”

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