In the past we have heard about arsenic only in the context of being used as a rat poison or in pesticides up until 1970. Today, every month there is new information coming out concerning high arsenic levels in foods that we eat with no regulations present.
Organic and inorganic arsenic in apple juice – both raise a health concern
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are two types of arsenic: organic and inorganic; it can occur naturally or it can be produced by contamination.
All inorganic arsenic is harmful. And even though most organic arsenic is considered generally “harmless” by the FDA, new studies have shown that two organic types of arsenic in apple juice (dimethylarsinic acid and monomethylarsonic acid) can be unsafe to consume.
Why is there inorganic arsenic in my food?
Since arsenic has been used in many pesticides until 1970, as the result there was some arsenic still left in the soil that is being used for farming.
The produce collected from such fields may have small amounts of arsenic, according to the FDA. Rice absorbs arsenic from soil and water more than the other crops, and often contains higher amounts of it.
There is not enough data to locate the source of contaminated produce
Apples, like many other foods, are sourced from all over the world including China. While the FDA states they take a small sample to test the quality and safety, they admit that it would be impossible to test every single shipment from every brand to find out where the arsenic is coming from.
No long term surveys from multiple companies has ever been done to find the contaminated apple juice.
There is also no way to tell if organic apples are safer, because they can be grown on the same arsenic-contaminated soil, but buying organic is generally a safer bet since organic does not use synthetic pesticides, and also requires a period of soil treatment that adds more beneficial compounds and balance to help heal the soil overall.
Besides in water, there are no limits of arsenic set by the FDA
The FDA currently allows 10 micrograms of arsenic per liter of bottled water. There are no other limitations in place. The FDA has recently proposed the same limitation as for water to be put in place for apple juice, but it is still waiting approval.
Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products
After hearing rising concern for arsenic in rice, the FDA tested 1,300 samples of different rice and rice products in 2012. It was found that rice grains contained between 2.6 to 7.2 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per serving.
Instant rice has the least amount and brown rice the highest amount from this range. Arsenic in rice products differed between 0.1 to 6.6 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per serving. Instant formula had the least, and rice pasta the most from this range.
Brownies had 1.3 mcg per serving, hot cereal 3.2, and rice cakes 4.3 mcg per serving. A full list of products can be found at FDA.gov.
The long-term health impact of consuming small amounts of arsenic have not yet been fully studied. Previous studies have shown an increased risk for skin, bladder and lung cancers, and heart disease.
Other food products that may contain higher levels of arsenic
In California, there has been recently a lawsuit against 28 companies that produced or sold wine with “dangerously high levels of inorganic arsenic,” according to the CNN.
The FDA studied pear juice between 2005 and 2011. They found 23 micrograms per liter of juice in 23 out of 142 samples. The products were recalled.
Animal drug Roxarsone was used in chicken feed until 2014, when the FDA recalled it due to a concern that the drug can transform into arsenic.
However, removing any drugs from the market takes some time, so there may be still chicken sold that has amounts of arsenic.
Reducing food-based Inorganic Compounds Exposure (R.I.C.E.) Act of 2015
“Inorganic arsenic is a known carcinogen, and long-term oral exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic is associated with developmental defects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and diabetes, according to the World Health Organization,” states the bill.
Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced a bill in Congress on May 21, 2015. The H.R. 2529 would set a limit on how much inorganic arsenic would be allowed in rice and rice-based products.
The bill would have to pass the House and Senate, and be signed by the president to be enacted.
“The federal government needs to step in to make sure that American families are consuming food that is safe,” DeLauro said. “We have known about the dangers of arsenic for some time now, and there is no excuse for us not to take action.”
By Yelena Sukhoterina, Alt Health Works