Consumer Reports tested organic rice cereal intended for babies, and arrived to a shocking conclusion: your favorite rice cereals, made both of white and brown rice, contain an incredible amount of arsenic that can cause severe damage to your health. Yes, you should be worried!
Arsenic is one of the world’s most powerful carcinogens, and can be even more dangerous when consumed by children. Many rice producers are trying to calm consumers down, claiming there is no large presence of arsenic in rice products, and that the danger is long overcome. But is it?
The vice president of USA Rice Federation, Anne Banville, says the advert effects of rice arsenic exposure has not been scientifically confirmed, which doesn’t sound that convincing coming from a person running a $34 billion in trade industry. According to her, the arsenic exposure risk is minimal, and one has to weigh it to rice benefits in order to understand that.
Scientists, however, said something else: If the large presence of arsenic’s toxic properties in drinking water is a known source of health complications and diseases, there is no reason to dismiss the same concerns in the case of rice. As Allan Smith, M.D., PhD., Berkley’s most known epidemiology professor explains, the fact that rice arsenic takes years to display its first carcinogenic effects, it’s not an excuse to neglect the danger and to terminate epidemiologic studies on the matter. For the record, Smith was the man who established a scientific connection between Chile and Argentina’s public water with lung and bladder cancer, which gives us a reason to at least consider what he’s saying.
From where we stand now, we might not be able to change the way rice is produced and packed, but we can take our own precaution matters to remove some of the arsenic. Here are some useful tips:
Cover the rice with a triple amount of cold water, wait for debris to start floating, and remove it. Wash the rice neatly, rubbing grains neatly between your palms. Use a strainer to drain the water, and rinse multiple times with boiling water. When it comes to water, the rule is the hotter the better, as arsenic won’t go away using cold water only. In fact, experts recommend people to change water at least 6 times while cooking the rice, but you can easily avoid this tiring process by soaking it the previous evening, and draining the water in the morning. Otherwise, wash rice until you notice that even the hot water has become absolutely clear.
The pre-soaking method will remove other dangerous additives from packed rice as well, but you should always remember to add water in a 1:1 ration. Make sure water covers rice at least slightly while cooking it, and adjust it each time it evaporates.
In case you feel a bit lazy, and you want to avoid changing the water constantly, process the rice with a coffee percolator or a similar device, as this method proved to remove over 85% of rice’s arsenic content. The percolator will run boiling water over the rice the same way it does on grounded coffee, and will leave rice clean and safe to use. The method is simpler because it doesn’t require rice to stay in the water where arsenic is soaked as well, but allows water to drip through the seeds taking it away with the steam.