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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Arsenic Contamination in Rice Milk

Did you know that neither the U.S. nor the European Union (EU) closely regulates arsenic in foods?

Maybe you thought that nobody did so because it wasn't necessary. Apparently not so.

Andrew Meharg and colleagues at the University of Aberdeen, UK, have shown that people drinking rice milk are exposed to high levels of inorganic arsenic. ... Meharg found that all the commercial rice milks exceeded the EU limit for water and 12 out of 15 samples exceeded the US standard with the median total arsenic value being seven times greater than in soy and oat milk samples.

The report by Harriet Brewerton, on the Chemical Science magazine website, was based on an article in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring: "Inorganic arsenic levels in rice milk exceed EU and US drinking water standards"
Andrew A. Meharg, Claire Deacon, Robert C. J. Campbell, Anne-Marie Carey, Paul N. Williams, Joerg Feldmann and Andrea Raab, J. Environ. Monit., 2008, DOI: 10.1039/b800981c

Rice itself is well known to often contain high levels of inorganic arsenic. However, no one apparently ever thought to test rice "milk," a cow's milk substitute made by processing rice with water. The study team looked at all varieties, including commercially available and home-made milks, made from globally sourced white and brown rice grains.

Meharg's team recently received funding to see if they can breed rice plants that naturally take up less arsenic.

It's unclear what this study means for overall health. Vegans who drink rice milk exclusively may want to limit their consumption.

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