Skip

Rice and Old Lace
May 2, 2013 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Consumer Reports recently advised against eating too much rice. Is this a new fad diet? Not exactly. Instead, limiting intake of rice will help cut back on that nasty habit of eating arsenic.
posted by mark7570 (58 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
:(
posted by grobstein at 1:22 PM on May 2, 2013


That's it, from now on I'm only eating the still beating hearts of my enemies.
posted by The Whelk at 1:24 PM on May 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's it, from now on I'm only eating the still beating hearts of my enemies.
How Paleo of you.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:26 PM on May 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


More propaganda from the usual lefty anti-arsenic brigade. Wake up, sheeple! Wake up! Hey, c'mon, sheeple, don't just lie there. What's wrong with... Oh. Hey. Somebody better call 911. These sheeple ain't breathin'.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:29 PM on May 2, 2013 [30 favorites]


So when I'm eating rice and meat balls I'm actually eating arsenic and horse ass?

*sigh*

You know, I'm starting to think that the guy who is working on nutritional goo Soylent isn't that crazy after all.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:34 PM on May 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


"as the US Rice Federation says on its web site, that it is "a naturally occurring element in soil and water." But as Nature reported in 2005, US rice carries "1.4 to 5 times more arsenic than rice from Europe, India and Bangladesh." What gives? Here in the United States, we've added massive amounts of arsenic to the environment over the decades."

-from Mother Jones. The culprit seems to be US rice.

From the article in the FPP as well:
"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."
posted by vacapinta at 1:41 PM on May 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


For those who haven't clicked the link, they have a picture that makes it clear that rice is in just about everything 'cereal' these days.

As far as pure rice goes as a side dish staple, man is that a depressing thought. Time to switch to 100% cous cous?
posted by Yowser at 1:42 PM on May 2, 2013


So maybe the health benefits that people experience when transitioning to a paleo diet is actually the body reacting to an arsenic-free diet. I dunno though. I better shut up before Big Rice reads this.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:45 PM on May 2, 2013


Simply cooking rice in excess water, and then draining it before serving, should take care of a lot of the arsenic.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 1:46 PM on May 2, 2013


If it's in the soil, how come arsenic isn't a problem in other grains and/or vegetables? Surely most USians eat more wheat than rice.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:47 PM on May 2, 2013


If it's in the soil, how come arsenic isn't a problem in other grains and/or vegetables? Surely most USians eat more wheat than rice.

I suspect it has a lot to do with the wet, marshy land one grows rice in, as opposed to the well-drained and regularly-tilled farmland that produces wheat and corn.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:50 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The whole time, I'm thinking "What about Lundberg? What about Lundberg?" ...

"One rice company shared with us details of how it is taking matters into its own hands. Grant Lundberg, CEO of Lundberg Family Farms in Richvale, Calif., which sells rice and rice products, says the company is testing more than 200 samples of the many varieties of rice in its supply chain and plans to share the results with FDA scientists."

Looks like Lundberg and Archer are your best bets, but still, disturbing. Thanks, Consumer Reports!

If it's in the soil, how come arsenic isn't a problem in other grains and/or vegetables? Surely most USians eat more wheat than rice.

My obvious guess would be that rice absorbs more of it.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:50 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


doctor_negative - the article references an earlier study that suggests fruit/fruit juices are a bigger source of arsenic than rice.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:55 PM on May 2, 2013


Rats. I was planning on building up an immunity from Arsenic to go along with my immunity from iocane powder.
posted by Gungho at 1:57 PM on May 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm only eating the still beating hearts of my enemies.

Just, you know, not the rice-eating ones: arsenic bioaccumulates.
posted by bonehead at 1:58 PM on May 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is why my family only buys rice by the cubic feet from shady Asian markets.
posted by snickerdoodle at 2:05 PM on May 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fantastic. Rice is my staple grain. Wheat destroys my digestion. What the heck am I supposed to eat? Leaves and twigs?
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:06 PM on May 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Great. Now I have an intense craving for a bowl of rice and ketchup.
posted by Splunge at 2:13 PM on May 2, 2013


Rice flour is a key part of many gluten-free recipes. The amount of arsenic seems to be the same.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:23 PM on May 2, 2013


Brown rice syrup no es bueno either.

There's a stand up comic who does a bit about how "country" he is and how he can calculate the amount of pesticide to dump in a barrel of grain infested with bugs without "hurting anyone" who eats the graib. No offense but I'm over the whole letting farmers and chemical countries poison the freaking globe and figuring our the ramifications later.
posted by lordaych at 2:24 PM on May 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


We've been using barley a lot for dishes we once would have served with rice - it has no (known) arsenic -a concern since our daughter is breastfeeding; lots of fiber; if you cook it right the texture is pretty similar; and it fills the same sort of blank-canvas-starch/sauce-soaking niche that rice does.

It even works well in Asian food (it's a staple in some parts of Korea, apparently) or for making risotto (we've found a number of Italian orzotto recipes). We haven't been missing rice since making the switch.
posted by janewman at 2:25 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


On their list of sourced rice, imported rice from India and Thailand has substantially lower arsenic concentrations than most US brands. I would be interested in seeing results from other Asian countries, particularly Japan and China.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:30 PM on May 2, 2013


> That's it, from now on I'm only eating the still beating hearts of my enemies.

Just make sure they're free range and organic. You don't even what to know what's in most people.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:31 PM on May 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I too would be interested to see the results involving alternative grains (farro, barley, etc.). I mean, I eat more of those than rice these days because of the whole arsenic thing, but I prefer the way jasmine/basmati rice soaks up delicious curry when I've a craving.
posted by Kitteh at 2:32 PM on May 2, 2013


White rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas

Well, there's a surprise. The most business friendly, libertarian states in the US turn out to have a bit of a problem keeping their land pollution free. Who'd thunk it.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:35 PM on May 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


I eat at least a dry weight pound of rice every day.

I have a feeling a lot of this comes from growing rice on old orchard land.

Arsenic used to be about the only pesticide for lots of fruits, and it builds up in the soil.
posted by jamjam at 2:38 PM on May 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The list of things you can eat without worrying about what the fuck might be in it is down to...help me out here, people.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:52 PM on May 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:58 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not really. I grew up in Tacoma. I'm probably 45% arsenic by volume.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:59 PM on May 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is why my family only buys rice by the cubic feet from shady Asian markets.

The chart with the article gives excellent scores to products from India and Thailand...so yeah.
posted by gimonca at 3:11 PM on May 2, 2013


But Asian rice has recently been found to have dangerous levels of lead. So, literally, pick your poison.
posted by blahblahblah at 3:22 PM on May 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


You don't even what to know what's in most people.

If you follow the Whelk's diet plan, it's mostly the hearts of their enemies. Who, you know, probably ate rice. Or possibly just Texas dirt.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:26 PM on May 2, 2013


Another reason not to drink Budweiser...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:27 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whenever I read about stuff like this, I think Everything Is Trying To Kill You might be the realest TV Trope of them all.

I also feel like responding, "What the hell am I supposed to eat, man? Harsh language?"
posted by lord_wolf at 3:29 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's called intermittent fasting and it's totally a thing wait I just need to take a quick nap here.......
posted by The Whelk at 3:30 PM on May 2, 2013


Man, when Japan joins the TPP, I'll have to look about getting my rice shipped over to the US. :D
posted by snwod at 4:00 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it's in the soil, how come arsenic isn't a problem in other grains and/or vegetables? Surely most USians eat more wheat than rice.

My understanding is that a lot of the land in the South that is now producing rice used to produce cotton. Nobody was eating the cotton, so they used arsenic pesticides on the crops and it soaked into the soil. Wheat does better in a different climate.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:03 PM on May 2, 2013


Man, when Japan joins the TPP, I'll have to look about getting my rice shipped over to the US. :D

Whoa...you live on an island off the coast of Japan and you grow rice on your own farm? Where do I sign up? Seriously...that's probably my #2 bucolic dream job next to becoming a farmer in northern Iceland.

But Asian rice has recently been found to have dangerous levels of lead. So, literally, pick your poison.

I know, I feel like, every few years, they find out that something is carcinogenic or poisonous or otherwise bad for your health, and then another few years later they find out that actually it has some previously unknown health benefit. I think probably 90% of my diet is supposedly bad for me. Rice has arsenic and/or lead, tuna has mercury, soybeans have too much estrogen, and recently I read that even the tapioca balls in bubble tea are bad for you. IS THERE NOTHING LEFT FOR ME TO EAT?! All I know is, life expectancy in Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, and South Korea > life expectancy in the US, so all those foods can't possibly be that bad for you. Swedes also live for a long time which gives some credence to the meat and potatoes diet too.
posted by pravit at 5:17 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I do tend to think that the reason a lot of foods are bad for people in the US and not as bad for people in other countries is because the US has allowed food standards to drop to below what other countries will allow. It's not the actual food that's bad, it's the production methods and the poisons we allow into it in the process. And regulation is not great here either. But hey, we have cheaper food, so.

The good part of this story is the bit at the end where the CEO of Nature's One found out about the high level of arsenic in his rice cereal for babies he took immediate action to find a new supplier (which he had to go outside of the US for) that provided rice products with lower levels of arsenic and were willing to work with him on a filtration process to make it even lower. Then Consumer Reports retested it and the arsenic levels were negligible. That is what should happen when we find unacceptably high levels of poisons in our food. What probably will happen (and we can kind of see this from the article) is the Rice Industry, instead of making similar changes, will start a huge counteroffensive about how arsenic really isn't all that bad; they'll pay for bogus studies to cast doubt on the real studies and have some media mouthpiece like Fox or whatever make it into a BIG GOVERNMENT issue or some such shit. And people will buy it, and nothing will change.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:30 PM on May 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


So yeah, in just two FPPs, I've learned that my state just had an oil spill this week and is also responsible for growing much of the country's arsenic-contaminated rice. I...I don't even. Although I guess this isn't that surprising, given the (likely agriculture-related) phenomenon known as "Missouri sperm."

So let's see. I won't eat shrimp because of the BP contamination. I won't eat much beef after reading the Kansas City Star's exposé. I still eat pork and chicken, but I probably shouldn't, given the conditions in CAFOs—eating them is dubious from both a health standpoint and an ethical standpoint, unless I know the source. I like sushi and salmon, but tuna and salmon are both being overfished; I don't want to contribute to their extinction (oh yeah, and they have mercury). I generally avoid shellfish, 'cause I had a bad reaction to some clam chowder as a kid and haven't really had an urge to revisit the incident (though I ate scallops a few times in college and was OK). I still eat organic eggs, but my cholesterol just came back slightly elevated, so I need to quit eating them all the time. And dammit, I only just discovered the joy of eggs and rice a while back, and now there's this news about rice!

And that's just the protein and staple grain. In 2012, I did this thing where for a year, I ate Greek yogurt for breakfast just about every day. Aaaand I gained two cup sizes (and then some), so I had to cut that out. Pasta has started to just make me bloated. The brand of soup I like comes in cans with BPA in the lining. Oh, and after reading about the SimplyThick debacle recently, even though the effects were in infants and children (just Google it), realizing that xanthan gum is in almost everything is completely freaking me out.

So I'm just having a lot of trouble lately figuring out what the hell to eat. Barley and tofu (but what about potential endocrine disruption from the soy)? Cheese? Lobster (ha)? Spoonbill (alas, only available in Missouri rivers once a year)? Fruit juice (so much sugar!)? Only super-ethically-sourced well-cooked meat? Baked potatoes with olive oil? I've started eating more salads at lunch, despite my fears that all the contamination from pesticides, arsenic, etc. might outweigh any good it might do. But sometimes, like today, I just despair. I love food, but...
posted by limeonaire at 6:28 PM on May 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Great. Now I have an intense craving for a bowl of rice and ketchup.

Dafuq? This is not a thing. Please tell me this is not a thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:19 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well now I'm glad my family gets its rice from ethnic groceries that import it from Afghanistan. I'm sure there's some hideous carcinogen/poison in that too, but it tastes pretty great and has the perfect fluffy texture. (Baghlan brand rice, in case anyone is interested. The bag assures us it is "extra clean!" and idk, none of us are dead yet.)

So my advice to those who still want to eat rice: go buy a giant ten pound bag of Asian/Middle Eastern/Indian rice from your friendly neighborhood ethnic market. Though I'm sure it has something wrong with it too, at least it's probably not full of arsenic!
posted by yasaman at 7:39 PM on May 2, 2013


Don't assume that Asian rice = no arsenic. Bangladesh has already had its own poison scare on that front - but hark, there may already be an answer.

If I was going to take a punt on a really good growth area over the next twenty years, it'd be in embedded environmental analysis for mobile phones. Kings and princes of old had their food tasters, and even Hendrix kept a chap on hand to check the quality of his acid - now, you too can be instantly alerted to crud in your chow.
posted by Devonian at 7:46 PM on May 2, 2013


Our rice, apparently, comes from Thailand! Ain't that fantastic.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:15 PM on May 2, 2013


Bully! Mr. Spenalzo is on the case.
posted by Sk4n at 8:19 PM on May 2, 2013


go buy a giant ten pound bag of Asian/Middle Eastern/Indian rice

haha, "giant ten pound". My family goes through 10 pounds of rice a week.
posted by BinGregory at 8:28 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


So maybe the health benefits that people experience when transitioning to a paleo diet is actually the body reacting to an arsenic-free diet. I dunno though. I better shut up before Big Rice reads this.

As if we'd do that!
posted by (Arsenic) Rice and (Uncle) Ben's at 12:68 on May 2 [+] [!]
posted by Oddly at 9:15 PM on May 2, 2013


Most Japanese/Asian branded rice available in the US is grown in California. Which is presumably better than the problem states, but still of unknown arsenic content. I wish they had tested the major Asian brands :(
posted by danny the boy at 11:57 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Our rice, apparently, comes from Thailand! Ain't that fantastic.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:15 PM on May 2 [+] [!]


Nope, might be low arsenic, but it's still trying to kill you - polished Thai jasmine has a GI of 109-111 or so. Assuming a glucose benchmark of 100. Alternate source from post above this one.
posted by Ahab at 12:51 AM on May 3, 2013


Although I guess this isn't that surprising, given the (likely agriculture-related) phenomenon known as "Missouri sperm."

For anyone curious about this reference; according to the google, men in Missouri have sharply lower sperm counts than in other regions of the country.
posted by winna at 3:08 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great. Now I have an intense craving for a bowl of rice and ketchup.

Dafuq? This is not a thing. Please tell me this is not a thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:19 PM on May 2 [1 favorite +] [!]


Add a fried egg to that bowl and I'm all over it.
posted by like_neon at 5:07 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I discovered it as a child. It's been a comfort food for me ever since. I don't like fried eggs, but scrambled would be great!
posted by Splunge at 5:44 AM on May 3, 2013


I'm as anti to pollution inflicted on the environment by greedy corporations as anyone, but I'm not so certain that the arsenic is the result of fertilizer runoff pollution. Pullution from human-added chemicals is certainly possible, but it could as easily be the result of natural geological processes that can contaminate deeply buried groundwater.

Researchers Find Link to Arsenic-Contaminated Groundwater
Arsenic contamination of groundwater at Wikipedia
Areas with groundwater known to be contaminated by arsenic

Arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh has been known about since the 80s, when the massive tubewell digging projects persuaded everyone to drink groundwater instead of contracting diptheria and cholera from contaminated ponds and rivers. Ten years later, they discovered that they've traded waterborne childkillers for slow arsenic poisoning instead.

It all comes down to the geological conditions under which the groundwater is fed. Tiny traces of arsenic found in the Himalayan rocks is washed into the delta adsorbed into iron hydroxide, and becomes a part of the soil in the delta as the river water slows down as it crosses the floodplains and drops all its sediments. Over millions of years, these sediments make their way down into the aquifers where the groundwater lives, along with dead organic matter that grew in the fertile soils and gets buried as sediments become deposited on top. If there is insufficient oxygen present in the soil, then anaerobic bacteria start to break down the organic matter, and in the process the iron hydroxide is reduced which in turn releases its adsorbed arsenic into the groundwater. Tubewells then bring arsenic-laced water up to the surface, where it's used for drinking, washing and irrigating fields, slowly poisoning the population and causing excessively high rates of various cancers.

The soil in Bangladesh is contaminated with increasing amounts of arsenic because it comes along with the irrigation water. It gets absorbed into anything grown there, where it just hangs around in the plant tissues forever. Rice is more badly affected than other crops because it grows underwater - there's a lot more arsenic floating about for it to absorb.

The problem is that the geological conditions under which the Bangladeshi groundwater became contaminated are not unique to the Ganges delta. Contributing factors are: low-lying coastal regions which are covered by deep sediment beds, forming the floodplains for rivers fed by mountainous regions where the flow speed drops abruptly as the river leaves the steep mountains and hits the plains, and a steady supply of dead organic matter which becomes buried along with the sediments. As well as the areas we already know about which have arsenic contamination, these conditions are common anywhere you find mountains and rivers in warm climates.

Regions around the world sharing similar geological conditions which may be prone to arsenic contamination of groundwater include: coastal areas in most of SE Asia, the delta plains of Chinese rivers, the Nile, Niger and Congo deltas, large parts of both the Pacific and Atlantic costs of the USA, the Gulf of Mexico, the Amazon and Parana basins, as well as the Rhine, the Po and the Garonne. This is potentially a huge problem which could become a major global health hazard, and very few people even know about it.
posted by talitha_kumi at 6:00 AM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


On the upside, my hair is really glossy!
posted by hattifattener at 12:56 PM on May 3, 2013


Yes, this is a big problem in Bangladesh and the southern U.S. due to groundwater contamination in the former and cotton farming in the latter. Om Parkash Dhanker at UMass-Amherst is studying ways to remediate arsenic contaminated soils using plants that preferentially uptake arsenic and are resistant to its effects. The plants can be grown on contaminated soil and sequester arsenic in their leaves, then get disposed of properly to keep the arsenic out of the environment. Here is a more detailed explanation of the work if anyone is interested.
posted by permiechickie at 12:56 PM on May 3, 2013


Now I have an intense craving for a bowl of rice and ketchup.

AMERICAN FRIED RICE baby! Best use of rice, ketchup, eggs, and bacon ever.
posted by pravit at 3:13 PM on May 3, 2013


So maybe the health benefits that people experience when transitioning to a paleo diet is actually the body reacting to an arsenic-free diet. I dunno though. I better shut up before Big Rice reads this.
Where does it say 'paleo' foods are arsenic free?
If it's in the soil, how come arsenic isn't a problem in other grains and/or vegetables? Surely most USians eat more wheat than rice.
They probably do. The article doesn't say what the baseline arsenic levels are for other foods, just the numbers for rice and drinking water. But they do say people who eat a lot of rice have levels 44 times higher then people who don't. Perhaps the rice plant absorbs it more readily. Arsenic is used biologically by some organisms.
Fantastic. Rice is my staple grain. Wheat destroys my digestion. What the heck am I supposed to eat? Leaves and twigs?
High fructose corn syrup?
I know, I feel like, every few years, they find out that something is carcinogenic or poisonous or otherwise bad for your health, and then another few years later they find out that actually it has some previously unknown health benefit.
It's entirely possible for things to have both negative and positive effects. nicotine can slow the onset of Alzheimer's disease, for example.
Nope, might be low arsenic, but it's still trying to kill you - polished Thai jasmine has a GI of 109-111 or so.
Which only matters if you have diabetes, other then that paranoia about the glycemic index is just a fad diet thing.

Honestly I don't understand why people freak out so much about all this food stuff. In a lot of cases it's a situation where there may be some slight increase in some probability of something bad, maybe. How much time do you think you're actually adding to your lives by avoiding certain foods? (as opposed to AMOUNTS of foods) Do you think that you can somehow avoid aging or death just by eating the exact right combination of stuff? You're going to get old and die no matter what. What are you trying to accomplish?
posted by delmoi at 9:14 PM on May 3, 2013


If you follow the Whelk's diet plan, it's mostly the hearts of their enemies. Who, you know, probably ate rice

You can't fool me, young man! It's still-beating human hearts all the way down!
posted by hattifattener at 9:31 PM on May 3, 2013


« Older The Taiga Life   |   nutrition database Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post