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Organic Brown Rice Syrup: Hidden Arsenic Source?

February 16, 2012

Seeing that brown rice syrup is a staple in my pantry, I had no choice but to address today’s report stating that it contains traces of arsenic. I use this alternative sweetener on occasion and have also turned my clients on to it for dressings, dips and marinades. I buy Lundberg’s brand, because they are based in California and I like to support U.S. rice growers, as the majority of rice available to us is grown oversees. Lundberg also offers a number of organic varieties and I like the way their grains cook and taste. Here is their official statement regarding todays’ news:

Statement from Lundberg Family Farms

Lundberg Family Farms stands behind the safety, nutritional value and health benefits of all our rice products. We are proud of our 75 year history of producing the finest quality rice and rice products as well as our commitment to organic and sustainable farming.

As we look into the findings of the study released on 2/16/12, we will consider all of the published research on the overall safety and healthfulness of organic rice products. It is important to remember that U.S. grown rice has been a wholesome source of nutrition, both here at home and internationally, for over 300 years. Because arsenic is naturally occurring, some levels are present in all rice, and a wide range of fruits, vegetables, grains and seafood, as well as present in the air and drinking water.

At present, there are no requirements for testing arsenic levels in a wide range of food products grown in the U.S., including rice. We favor additional and more extensive scientific research as well as an evaluation by the U.S. FDA regarding the appropriate amounts in food.

I think all my readers know that not only do I eat brown rice, I eat a lot of it and I use brown rice syrup on occasion. To this point, I contacted Lundberg directly to see if they could ease my fears and help me feel that, although obviously not intentional, I haven’t encouraged my clients to eat a potentially toxic substance. Here’s our conversation:

Ashley Delorey | Lundberg Family Farms

Hi Hanna,

Thank you for contacting us on this issue as your concerns are very important to us. While the most recent study states that brown rice syrup is high in arsenic, there is no data that suggests the levels are unsafe for human consumption. We stand behind the safety, nutritional value, and health benefits of all our rice products, including the brown rice syrup. We currently do not test for arsenic in our rice or rice products, but due to this recent development we are evaluating the next steps in doing so.

There are a couple of other resources that you may want to refer to:

-Our company’s official statement on this report can be found at http://www.lundberg.com/Info/announcement.aspx

-Learn more about the Arsenic compound from the CDC at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/TF.asp?id=19&tid=3

I hope that this addresses your immediate concerns. Please let me know if you have any other question

HFR

Hi Ashley,

Thank you so much for your prompt response. What I would love for you to confirm for me is that Lundberg (as I know you can’t speak for other growers) does not use arsenic in the growing process of your crop. Arsenic is something that is found naturally in rice. Am I correct in saying that or is arsenic used as a chemical additive?

Ashley Delorey | Lundberg Family Farms

Hi Hanna,

You are correct, Lundberg Family Farms does not use Arsenic as part of our farming practices. If Arsenic is present in Lundberg Family Farms rice (which is unknown at this point) it is because the compound is naturally occurring in its growing environment.

Learning that a food you consume could be potentially harmful to your health is pretty scary, but we discover new information every day. If I had any inclination that brown rice syrup could be potentially harmful, I would never have suggested it as an ingredient to my clients, nor eaten it myself. But, there is still research to be done. So as I did before this news story, I will continue to consume (Lundberg) brown rice syrup on occasion and in moderation.
-
Here is more helpful information on the subject of arsenic:
What is arsenic?

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element widely distributed in the earth’s crust. In the environment, arsenic is combined with oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur to form inorganic arsenic compounds. Arsenic in animals and plants combines with carbon and hydrogen to form organic arsenic compounds.

Inorganic arsenic compounds are mainly used to preserve wood. Copper chromated arsenate (CCA) is used to make “pressure-treated” lumber. CCA is no longer used in the U.S. for residential uses; it is still used in industrial applications. Organic arsenic compounds are used as pesticides, primarily on cotton fields and orchards.

What happens to arsenic when it enters the environment?

  • Arsenic occurs naturally in soil and minerals and may enter the air, water, and land from wind-blown dust and may get into water from runoff and leaching.
  • Arsenic cannot be destroyed in the environment. It can only change its form.
  • Rain and snow remove arsenic dust particles from the air.
  • Many common arsenic compounds can dissolve in water. Most of the arsenic in water will ultimately end up in soil or sediment.

Fish and shellfish can accumulate arsenic; most of this arsenic is in an organic form called arsenobetaine that is much less harmful.

How might I be exposed to arsenic?

  • Ingesting small amounts present in your food and water or breathing air containing arsenic.
  • Breathing sawdust or burning smoke from wood treated with arsenic.
  • Living in areas with unusually high natural levels of arsenic in rock.

Working in a job that involves arsenic production or use, such as copper or lead smelting, wood treating, or pesticide application.

Sourcehttp://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/TF.asp?id=19&tid=3

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2012 1:40 pm

    Hi Hanna- I have been a long-term consumer of Lundberg’s Wild Rice. I am surprised at Ashley’s “relaxed” stance on the arsenic question which upsets me. If I ran an organic food company with a risk of poisoning my customers I would post haste test all my ingedients. Why hasn’t Lundberg reported the results of the arsenic testing? I suspect Lundberg may not want to learn the results of the testing hence they drag their feet on this issue. Not very comforting!

    • HFR Living permalink*
      September 13, 2012 1:54 pm

      Hi HS, Thank you for your comment. I completely agree with you, but I also understand where Ashley is coming from. Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical element in our environment. Obviously is excess, it is a poison to our bodies, but I liken this case to that of our culture’s fear of cholesterol…and that eating foods like eggs and shellfish, that contain cholesterol, will raise cholesterol levels in our body…which is bogus. I too am a long-term Lundberg consumer, because I believe they offer high quality products. It is beyond their control that science (and food marketers) are just discovering traces of arsenic in rice. I hope that explanation offers a bit of comfort :) I’m still eating Lundberg brown rice on a regular basis.

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