Three members of Congress on Friday said they are introducing the "R.I.C.E Act" to limit the amount of arsenic permitted in rice and rice-based products. The proposed legislation follows a Consumer Reports investigation that found worrisome levels of arsenic, including the inorganic form, in many of the more than 60 products tested.
There are currently no federal standards for arsenic in most foods, including rice and rice-based products.
The "R.I.C.E Act" (Reducing food-based Inorganic and organic Compounds Exposure Act) requires the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to set a maximum permissible level of arsenic in rice and food containing rice, according to a statement from the three members, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).
"The idea that high levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen, are present in rice, cereal, and other common, everyday foods is absolutely outrageous," DeLauro said. "The federal government has an obligation to every American family to ensure that the food they consume is safe and should not make them sick. This is not the first time we have been alerted to the dangers of arsenic, and quite simply we must do more to ensure that our food supply is safe."
Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director of safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, welcomed the move. "Our tests show that there is a real need for these kinds of limits," Rangan said. "The goal of our report is to inform—not alarm—consumers about the importance of reducing arsenic exposure and offer actions they can take moving forward, such as limiting their rice consumption. We believe the government needs to regulate arsenic in food, and this new bill in Congress would help establish meaningful limits on arsenic in rice and rice products."
Earlier this week, the FDA and the Illinois Attorney General's office said that their own tests of rice and products such as infant rice cereals have detected the most toxic form of arsenic at levels that were consistent with Consumer Reports' results.
While arsenic can get into rice and other plants from soil or water due to weathering of arsenic-containing minerals in the earth, humans are more to blame than Mother Nature for arsenic contamination in the U.S. today, in part due to residues of past arsenical insecticide use and continuing use of fertilizers that contain arsenic.
For more of our coverage, check out Arsenic in your food and Arsenic in your juice, plus our chart detailing the root of the arsenic problem.
DeLauro, Pallone, Lowey Introduce Legislation To Limit Arsenic In Rice [Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro]
Members of Congress Introduce "R.I.C.E. Act" to Limit Arsenic in Rice Following Consumer Reports Investigation [Consumers Union]