Over the past three 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 standard, established through Codex, as an independent, evidence-based guideline by which to judge the safety of our products. We recently updated the published levels of arsenic in our rice, which now covers three consecutive years of data. I am happy to report that the levels of inorganic arsenic continue to remain low, and average less than half of the standard established by Codex. 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 have just received the findings published by Consumer Reports, and will provide comment after we have had an opportunity to review its findings and recommendations.
We support consumers’ right to know about the food they are eating, and remain committed to transparency on all issues. We have published the results of our arsenic testing in our crop for the past three 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, as well as 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 the 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, gender, 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.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), adopted a standard of maximum acceptable levels of arsenic in rice in July of 2014. This standard, 200 parts per billion (ppb), was set for white rice, which is generally understood to have lower levels of arsenic that brown rice3. At this same meeting, Codex agreed to develop a code of practice to help countries comply with meeting this standard.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a risk assessment regarding arsenic levels in apple juice, and recommended a standard last year. 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 impact4. Others believe that the risk is linear, meaning that risk is proportional with the amount of exposure, no matter how low or high the concentration5. There also is not 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 measured6.
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 content. Cooking rice with a high volume of water (1:6), or cooking it “pasta-style”, can remove 25-45% of the arsenic in rice7. However, there are many essential nutrients such as folic acid, iron, 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, health 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
4 Report on the Expert Panel on Arsenic Carcinogenicity: Review and Workshop, Easter Research Group, NCEA, USEP 66R97001, Aug 1997
5 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
6 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
7 Raab, Andrea et al., “Cooking rice in a high water to rice ratio reduces inorganic arsenic content”, J. Environ. Monit., 2009,11, 41-44
We have completed the data collection and analysis necessary to establish a 3 Year Baseline level. The baseline level is an essential component of our on-going routine monitoring program because it will allow us to identify meaningful shifts in inorganic arsenic levels in our products.
Below is a summary of our progress and learnings to-date.
The 3-year Baseline average was 92 ppb, with a range of 76 – 105ppb. Comparing specific varieties, levels have declined since 2011. However, this is primarily attributed to normal year-to-year variations, as climatic conditions and farming practices were very similar between these two years. The tables below present a comparison of crop years by variety category:
We are currently preparing for the 2014 crop harvest and testing program, which will represent the initiation of our on-going 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.
If you are concerned about arsenic in food, you are not alone- understanding arsenic is a concern of the worldwide food producing community. Over the last couple of years, members of that community have been working towards understanding arsenic in food through multidisciplinary expertise, shared resources and collaborative efforts. Although dietary arsenic exposure poses no immediate health risks, more information is needed to understand the effects of long-term exposure to trace levels of this naturally occurring element. Partners in the food producing community are working toward providing transparent and valid information to the public, and Lundberg Family Farms is committed to sharing current information with you, our valued consumer. Our primary concern at Lundberg Family Farms is your health and safety. As we discover more information, we will share our findings so that you can make healthy and informed decisions about your food.
In September 2012, Consumer Reports published an article titled “Arsenic in Your Food”. While we are still evaluating this information, see “An Important Message Regarding Consumer Reports” below for our preliminary thoughts on the report.
In March 2012, Codex (the food safety agency of the World Health Organization) met to discuss data that was available from worldwide sources. They reviewed analytical methods and currently known practices that can minimize arsenic uptake in rice. Codex announced 2015 as the target date for presenting the established limits of arsenic in food.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has been monitoring the levels of arsenic in food for over 20 years, has released their first analytical results on arsenic levels in rice and rice products, posted on September 19. Based on the available data and scientific literature, FDA is not recommending changes by consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products. Eating a balanced and diversified diet that includes a variety of grains in order to ensure good nutrition is FDA’s current advice for consumers.
The US FDA collected and analyzed more than 1000 samples to better understand the exposure to arsenic in food and conduct a full health risk analysis. If deemed necessary, the FDA will use this data to establish standards for acceptable levels of arsenic in food. Based on current research, FDA states there is an absence of adequate scientific data to demonstrate causal relationship between rice and rice product consumption and the types of illness typically associated with arsenic. To learn more about what the FDA is saying on this issue, and what their most recent finding are, click here.
Lundberg Family Farms is working with other companies who produce organic rice and organic rice products to address the issue of arsenic in rice. We believe a collaborative approach with growers, processors, trade associations, regulators and academic institutions is the best way to understand and address the concerns raised regarding arsenic in food. If you are interested in what others are saying, you can click on the links below to read their comments.
Lundberg Family Farms respects Consumer Reports as a valuable consumer advocacy publication, and supports its mission to empower consumers to protect themselves. We support consumers’ right to know what is in the food they eat, so that they can make informed choices about their diet.
The results of the testing for arsenic on rice and rice products published by Consumer Reports on September 19, 2012, are fairly consistent with our initial findings for levels of inorganic arsenic. While the data they report represents a very small sample size for any particular product, and therefore cannot be considered statistically predictive, the levels they report are within the ranges of results our own testing.
We share Consumer Report’s commitment to food safety, and will continue to support the FDA’s effort to conduct a thorough and scientific based health risk assessment. We believe that changes in dietary guidance and action levels should be based on sound science and we believe that the FDA is working diligently to determine scientifically valid guidance. We also believe that the FDA needs to be given the time and resources required to complete this complex analysis. We support the FDA’s current dietary advice, to eat a balance and diversified diet that includes a variety of whole grains in order to ensure good nutrition.
One of the issues raised by the Consumer Reports article is the long-term health impacts of chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic at low levels over a lifetime. We believe this merits additional study, and support additional research to better understand the actual health impact of a life-time’s exposure to inorganic arsenic at the levels currently being reported. We also support efforts to understand what causes these low levels, and what can be done to reduce them further.
At Lundberg Family Farms, we are committed to growing sustainable and healthy rice as well as providing our customers with safe, high-quality foods. We are committed to providing consumers with the information and resources they need to make informed choices about their family’s food.