Over the past two 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, the academic, and regulatory community to 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 part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts, they have posted results of testing in approximately 1300 rice and rice products. While the levels varied depending on products tested, FDA scientists determined that levels are too low to cause any immediate or short-term adverse health effects. The FDA’s next step is to use the new data to complete their comprehensive risk assessment.
The FDA’s advice for consumers, as stated on their website “is to eat a well-balanced diet for good nutrition and to minimize potential adverse consequences from consuming an excess of any one food”.
We recently published levels of arsenic in our rice from the past two crop years. We will continue our testing as part of our comprehensive food safety plan. There are also ongoing studies underway with our family’s farm, to better understand the dynamics in our farming systems and what impact they may have with arsenic levels. In addition, we have actively engaged with the rice research community to remain current with the work being done by some of the leading researchers in our field. We understand the complexity of the task that FDA is challenged with and appreciate the rigorous scientific approach undertaken by the expert staff.
Information about the issue of arsenic in food products can be found on our website, through a research library that includes abstracts/links to peer-reviewed research studies on the subject, on The Science section below, as well as through our Arsenic FAQs and Lundberg Product FAQs.
We support FDA’s interagency efforts, with EPA, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Centers for Disease Control, and the USDA as they move into the risk assessment phase. We also support FDA’s engagement with the international regulatory agency (CODEX) via providing access to our data.
Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts and concerns with us. We value your feedback, as it helps direct us to pursue those things that are of most importance to you. If you have suggestions for other information you might find useful, we’d love to hear from you. Please email us at email@example.com or call at (530) 538-3500. We look forward to hearing from you.
C.E.O., Lundberg Family Farms
The FDA’s recently released Draft Guidance for Industry on Arsenic in Apple Juice is the latest published information addressing concerns regarding arsenic in the food supply. It incorporates a detailed Quantitative Assessment of Inorganic Arsenic in Apple Juice, and references much of the current thinking in the scientific community regarding arsenic in food. We appreciate the FDA’s thoughtful and scientific approach, and look forward to their continued work in this area as they continue to analyze other food groups1, including rice.
While much has been learned about arsenic in food, and the potential impacts for human health, there are still many questions to be answered. We have recently updated our Resource Library to include newer studies, along with some older ones that have been cited by the FDA as the basis of its Risk Assessment. These studies provide a wealth of information, but can be daunting for non-scientists to sort through. To help our consumers, we have attempted to summarize 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, research2 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 occur3.
The World Health Organization’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has established a Benchmark dose limit (BMDL) for inorganic arsenic consumption of 3 ug/kg bw/day4. A person who weighs 150 pounds and consumes one serving of rice per day with inorganic arsenic concentration at the high end of the reported range would be consuming less than 1/30th of this limit.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published its findings regarding Apple Juice. Those findings concluded that the levels in nearly all juice tested were at an acceptable level, and recommended setting a standard for juice which provided a reasonable safety level and were realistically achievable. The FDA is still in the midst of conducting its risk assessment for other foods such as rice so that it can establish a reference level for the US food supply. 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. FDA has already taken the Next Steps on Arsenic and Rice by forming a team of scientists and medical experts who will work together to understand and minimize any long-term risk from the presence of arsenic in rice and foods made with rice.
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. 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.
The studies that have shown adverse health impacts from chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic have documented those levels to range from 0.01 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day to 0.065 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day7. By comparison, this is 650 times the level found in a serving of Lundberg’s brown rice. (.1mg/kg(ppm) level in rice X 45g serving = .0045mg/day, for 70kg person = .0001mg/kg body weight)
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 evidence that these levels have not measurably changed in over 50 years8.
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 the rice4. 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, 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 Supporting Document for Action Level for Arsenic in Apple Juice, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, July 2013
2 Guidance for and Review of EPA’s IRIS Toxicological assessment of Inorganic arsenic, National Academy of Sciences Proceedings, April, 2013
3 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 Safety Authority (EFSA) (2009). Scientific opinion on arsenic in food. EFSA Journal 7(10):1351.
4 Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods, 5th Sessions, The Hague, The Netherlands, March 2011, Discussion Paper on Arsenic in Rice
5 Report on the Expert Panel on Arsenic Carcinogenicity: Review and Workshop, Eastern 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 Carrington, Clark D. et al., “A Quantitative Assessment of Inorganic Arsenic in Apple Juice”, Chemical Hazards Assessment Team, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, July, 2013
8 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
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.
We are nearing completion of the data analysis from the second year of our 3-year Testing Plan. This year we focused on quantifying the variability in arsenic levels between crop years and investigating the relationship between water, soil, variety, agronomic practices and arsenic levels. Below is a summary of our progress and learning to-date.
Overall, levels from the 2012 crop year are trending lower than the 2011 crop year. The 2012 crop averages 73 ppb of inorganic arsenic, compared to 95 ppb for the 2011 crop. Per serving, this equates to 3.3 mcg versus 4.3 mcg. Comparing specific types, we are seeing 27-54% reductions in 2012 compared to 2011. We attribute this change to normal year-to-year variations, as climatic conditions and farming practices were very similar between these two years. The table below presents a comparison of crop years by variety category:
We are preparing for the 2014 crop harvest and testing program. These results will be incorporated into our overall analysis, enabling us to calculate a 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.
During the 2012 crop year planting cycle, we identified 19 fields that represented various water inputs, soil histories, agronomic practices and varieties. We collected and tested more than 150 samples of water, soil, straw and grain samples for total arsenic, inorganic arsenic and nutrients. Our technical staff is currently analyzing the data for trends and relationships. We will post our findings and next steps later this year.
Most of the data we have seen indicates that brown rice has 30-50% higher levels of inorganic arsenic than white rice (references listed below). These studies have also indicated that inorganic arsenic is more concentrated in the bran layer than the endosperm layer rather than being evenly distributed. However, scientists have not determined why or how arsenic is distributed through-out the rice plant and kernel.
We decided to investigate the impact of milling, or removing the bran layer, on total arsenic level and inorganic arsenic concentration. We identified 1 lot of rice and followed it through various milling steps. Samples were analyzed for total arsenic, inorganic arsenic, DMA and MMA.
Our results corroborate previously published studies. There was a 37% reduction in total arsenic and 47% reduction in inorganic arsenic as the bran layer was removed. The inorganic/total arsenic ratio was also decreased by 9%.
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.