Himalayan baby products contain mineral oil

Arsenic in rice - how dangerous is it?

Arsenic gets into our food through water

Arsenic is a chemical element that is naturally present in the earth's crust, but also enters the environment through the application of phosphate fertilizers or sewage sludge. Arsenic can find its way into our food and drinking water via the groundwater. Rice, which is grown in fields under water, absorbs a lot of arsenic through the roots. The arsenic content in rice therefore fluctuates depending on the arsenic content in the water and soil of the cultivation region and the cultivation method. But the rice variety also plays a role.

Carcinogenic: inorganic arsenic compounds

Arsenic occurs in different compounds: According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), organic arsenic compounds are “viewed as unproblematic in terms of health”. Inorganic arsenic compounds, on the other hand, are classified as carcinogenic for humans. The BfR ruled: "The occurrence of inorganic arsenic in food is therefore undesirable in any amount, but cannot be completely avoided."

Better not: whole grain rice

According to the BfR, arsenic in rice cannot be completely avoided. However, it is known that arsenic mainly accumulates in the outer layers of the rice grain. As a result, husked rice usually contains less arsenic than unpeeled wholegrain rice or brown rice. This is also confirmed by analyzes by Öko-Test and Stiftung Warentest. In 2017, Öko-Test had various brands of basmati, whole grain and long grain rice tested for arsenic. The basmati rice scored “very good” to “sufficient”, the long grain rice “good” to “sufficient”. Whole grain rice was the most polluted - it only scored “satisfactory” to “unsatisfactory”. Although the whole grain rice contains more vitamins and minerals, Öko-Test advises against the consumption of whole grain rice - the more positive components cannot outweigh the carcinogenic substances. In the basmati rice test by Stiftung Warentest 2018, white rice also performed better than whole grain rice. No whole grain rice achieved the test grade "good", the conclusion of Stiftung Warentest is therefore: "In this country, the whole grain hunger can also be satisfied with other grains."

Tip: wash rice thoroughly

The BfR recommends washing rice thoroughly before cooking and boiling it with plenty of water, ie not using the "swelling method". This causes part of the arsenic to dissolve and can then be poured off with the cooking water.

The BfR advises people who are dependent on rice due to gluten intolerance to include other gluten-free types of grain in their menu. These include corn, millet, buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa.

Beware of rice products for babies

In 2017, foodwatch had 18 rice products for babies - rice cakes and rice flakes - tested for arsenic in the laboratory. Carcinogenic arsenic was detected in all of the samples examined. However, some products were significantly more contaminated than others. This shows that it is up to the manufacturers to minimize the arsenic content.

According to the BfR, the arsenic levels in rice cakes and flakes are sometimes much higher than in white rice. It therefore recommends parents not to feed their infants and toddlers exclusively with rice products. When it comes to snacks, you should also vary products such as rice cakes with rice-free snacks. Furthermore, according to unanimous recommendations, infants should not be given rice-based drinks, as the nutritional composition does not meet the needs of infants.

Rice is healthy - in moderation

Rice is a food that contains numerous important nutrients such as protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Rice should therefore continue to be part of a balanced diet, according to the BfR. In order not to absorb too much inorganic arsenic, rice and rice products should only be consumed in moderation - this is especially true for babies. Since consumers cannot identify which rice varieties or rice products are particularly contaminated, manufacturers have an obligation: They must keep their products' arsenic contamination as low as possible.