Over the past four years, Lundberg Family Farms has taken a number of important steps in response to the release of research studies concerning arsenic in rice. Our team has been actively engaged with farmers, academic and regulatory communities, as well as our colleagues in the food industry, to better understand arsenic in food. At Lundberg Family Farms, we take pride in our food safety and we continue to work to bring you relevant information, as well as to evaluate ways to mitigate the presence of this naturally occurring element in rice.
As FDA continues to conduct its risk assessment, we look forward to the results of its efforts. In the meantime, we plan to follow the international standards, established through Codex, as an independent, evidence-based guideline by which to judge the safety of our products. We recently updated the inorganic arsenic testing results for our rice, which now covers four consecutive years of data. I am happy to report that the levels of inorganic arsenic from the 2014 crop are low, and average less than half of the standard established by Codex for white rice (polished rice), and less than one third the standard proposed by Codex for brown rice (husked rice), as was the case with the previous three years. Please refer to our Arsenic Testing Results section below for the results. We are also actively engaged in the development of a code of practice through Codex to help develop ways to reduce arsenic levels even further.
We support consumers’ right to know about the food they are eating, and remain committed to transparency on all issues. We have published arsenic-testing results for our crop for the past four years. We provide a link to information on arsenic that includes peer-reviewed research studies, as well as straight-forward answers to questions about arsenic in general and Lundberg-specific products.
Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts and concerns with us. We value your feedback as it helps us to focus on the things that matter to you. If you have suggestions for other information you might find useful, we’d love to hear from you. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (530) 538-3500. We look forward to hearing from you.
C.E.O., Lundberg Family Farms
Much has been learned about arsenic in food, and the potential impacts for human health, and there remain many questions to be answered. We continue to update our Resource Library to include newer studies. These studies provide a wealth of information, but can be daunting to sort through. To help our consumers, we have summarized many of the scientific questions below, and have provided links to the specific studies so that you can review them and draw your own conclusions.
Despite being one of the oldest known toxins, the scientific community still has not uncovered the specific mode of action of arsenic. At present, research1 suggests that arsenic at low levels found in rice is not a direct acting agent, but rather a co-respondent. This means that other factors such as genetic predisposition, absence of vital nutrients such as selenium or folate, or co-existing contaminants such as smoking, must also be present for health risks to occur2.
In July of 2014, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) adopted a standard of Maximum Level (ML) of inorganic arsenic that is acceptable in rice. This standard, 200 parts per billion (ppb), was set for white rice (polished rice), which is generally understood to have lower levels of arsenic than brown rice³. At this same meeting, Codex agreed to develop a code of practice to help countries comply with meeting this standard. During the March 2015 session, Codex proposed draft ML of 350 ppb for inorganic arsenic in brown rice (husked rice).
The FDA is in the midst of conducting its risk assessment for rice. Based on the information it has collected to date, the FDA does not recommend consumers change their consumption of rice, and continues to recommend that consumers eat a balanced diet.
There is much debate within the research community regarding the risk of low levels of inorganic arsenic. Some believe that there is a threshold risk level, below which there is not an adverse health impact5. Others believe that the risk is linear, meaning that risk is proportional with the amount of exposure, no matter how low or high the concentration6. Moreover, there is no agreement about what the slope of the risk factor is. There is no epidemiological evidence to suggest that increases in rice consumption lead to higher incidences of the types of cancer associated with chronic exposure to highly contaminated drinking water.
Naturally occurring levels of arsenic in US soils range from 1.1 mg/kg to 97 mg/kg, averaging 7.2 mg/kg. There is good evidence that these levels have not measurably change over the past 50 years that they have been measured7.
There are two steps that consumers can take to reduce the presence of arsenic in rice: rinsing rice before cooking and cooking rice with a high volume of water. Various research studies have shown that rinsing rice before cooking until the water is clear removes between 10-30% of the arsenic in rice. Cooking rice with a high volume of water (1:6), or cooking it “pasta-style”, can remove 25-45% of the arsenic in rice8. However, there are many essential nutrients such as folic acid, iron, and vitamins B1 and B3 naturally occurring in the outer layers of brown rice and enriched white rice. These beneficial vitamins and minerals are water soluble and will be lost during both of these methods.
We are committed to providing great-tasting and healthy rice and rice products to our consumers, and will continue our efforts to understand and address this topic. We will continue to share our findings with you as we move forward, and provide information from the scientific community to assist you in making informed decisions about your food choices.
1 Guidance for and Review of EPA’s IRIS Toxicological assessment of Inorganic arsenic, National Academy of Sciences Proceedings, April 2013
2 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). (2007) Toxicological profile for arsenic (update). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Atlanta, GA; European Food Safe Authority (EFSA) (2009). Scientific opinion on arsenic in food. EFSA Journal 7(10):1351.
3 Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, Codex Alimentarius Commission, 37th Session, Geneva, Switzerland, 14-18 July 2014, Report of the Eighth Session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods, The Hague, The Netherlands, 31 March – 4 April 2014. Page 9
4 Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, Codex Alimentarius Commission, Report of the Ninth Session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods, New Delhi, India, 16 – 20 March 2015 http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/international-affairs/us-codex-alimentarius/recent-delegation-reports/2015/delegate-report-9-cccf
5 Report on the Expert Panel on Arsenic Carcinogenicity: Review and Workshop, Easter Research Group, NCEA, USEP 66R97001, Aug 1997
6 Teaf, Christopher M. and Covert, Douglas (2012) “Risk Considerations Related to Environmental Arsenic Exposure: Drinking Water Ingestion Versus Dietary Intake or Soil Exposure”, Proceedings of the Annual International Conference on Soils, Sediments, Water and Energy: Vol. 17, Article 11
7 Chang, Andrew et al., “Role of Fertilizer and Micronutrient applications on Arsenic, Cadmium and Lead Accumulation in California Cropland Soils, California Department of Food and Agriculture, 2004
8 Raab, Andrea et al., “Cooking rice in a high water to rice ratio reduces inorganic arsenic content”, J. Environ. Monit., 2009,11, 41-44
The chart below shows the means over the four years of testing our rice compared to the MLs set by Codex. The mean inorganic arsenic contents of rice for each year are less than half of the Codex standard for Maximum Level (ML) 0.20 ppm of inorganic arsenic in white rice. Only the 2011 year includes white rice testing; the remaining three years have been brown rice testing only. The Codex proposed ML for brown rice of 0.35 ppm is still under review under the Codex process.
The 4-year average was 0.093 ppm, with a range of 0.01 – 0.24 ppm. As farming practices were similar between the four crop years, variability across these years may be attributed to differences in weather patterns and the volume of different varieties grown in each year.
The tables below represent inorganic arsenic content in different types of rice for 2011 – 2014 crop years:
We are currently preparing for the 2015 crop harvest and testing program, which will be our 5th consecutive year of continued testing as part of our ongoing arsenic monitoring program.
We remain committed to invest time and resources in this testing plan to provide you with meaningful data. We will continue to collect and analyze samples across our product lines and from multiple crop years to ensure the reliability of our data. When it comes to understanding our products, we want to be sure. At Lundberg Family Farms, your health and safety is our primary concern. We are committed to enabling you and your family to make healthy and informed decisions about your food.