Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined with Consumer Reports Wednesday, also calling on FDA to set standards, particularly for baby food. She, like the magazine, urged parents to limit the amount of rice they feed their children.
The FDA was not willing to go that far, however. Hamburg cautioned that neither the FDA nor Consumer Reports had tested enough samples to be certain of any trend.
"These are very few samples and there is great variability in the levels," she said.
Scientists have known for decades that arsenic is present in rice, but the issue has renewed interest as consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and technology has advanced to the point that inorganic and organic arsenic can be measured separately.
The consumer group's push on arsenic in rice comes a year after it pressured the FDA to define standards for arsenic in apple juice. Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, said Tuesday that the agency had completed an assessment on apple juice and would be making recommendations soon. The levels of arsenic found in apple juice are low, he said.
Professor Jaymie R. Meliker of Stony Brook University, who has studied the effects of arsenic, says it's all a matter of moderation.
"In general, in life, you shouldn't stand out in the sun eight hours a day," he said. "You shouldn't eat rice exclusively every meal. You should introduce variety in your diet because there are contaminants in everything. Nothing is completely safe."
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