In my TIL File: Rice is contaminated with Arsenic, Lead, etc., brown is worse than white, and other stuff

In another thread, Tim (@Vecchiouomo) mentioned Arsenic in rice, and that rice grown in California was generally better (less contaminated) than others.

To the best of my recollection, even though this has been known for decades, I hadn’t heard about how rice tends to concentrate arsenic compounds (and plenty of other heavy metals).

I found this chart from Consumer Reports which tested commercially sold rice grown in few different countries and, within the US, in several states. Also, rice products like cereals and cakes were tested.

I’m a little unsettled by the data variability - why would two lots from the same maker presumably grown in the same fields at similar times have such disparate results? Also, they tested blind duplicates of the same sample from time to time, and generally got the same result, but in some cases the two weren’t even close.

But some trends still look useful. Brown rice has a lot more arsenic than white. Rice grown in California and in India seem to be a lot lower in arsenic than rice grown in Louisiana, Missouri or Texas.

I remember reading somewhere that some of that arsenic was due to old pesticides remaining in the ground that were used on cotton fields.

So if you buy rice sourced from areas that never grew cotton in the old days you might be better off.

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True with caveats. Arsenic is a problem mostly in rice grown in the American South. The reason is that the fields were previously used to grow cotton and arsenic was used to control boll weevils. Most of the arsenic collects in the husk of the rice which is why brown rice has more of it. Personally, I avoid any U.S. grown brown rice. Here is an FDA study for those who really want to get down into the weeds on this subject.

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