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Is there excess arsenic in various organic rice syrups?

Organic foods may be an unsuspected source of dietary arsenic, explains a recent study, "A Dose–Response Study of Arsenic Exposure and Global Methylation of Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cell DNA in Bangladeshi Adults," published in the issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Is there excess arsenic in various organic rice syrups?
Photo credit: National Museum of American History, Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution. Organic foods may be an unsuspected source of dietary arsenic.

Arsenic, today known to be both toxic and potentially carcinogenic, was widely used as a medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries. As people seek healthier dietary regimens they often turn to things labeled "organic."

Lurking in the background, however, is an ingredient that may be a hidden source of arsenic—an element known to be both toxic and potentially carcinogenic, observes a February 16, 2012 news release, "Organic foods may be an unsuspected source of dietary arsenic."

Organic brown rice syrup has become a preferred alternative to using high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener in food, notes the news release

High fructose corn syrup has been criticized as a highly processed substance that is more harmful than sugar and is a substantial contributor to epidemic obesity. Unfortunately, organic brown rice syrup is not without its faults.

Dartmouth College researchers and others have previously called attention to the potential for consuming harmful levels of arsenic via rice, and organic brown rice syrup may be the latest culprit on the scene. With the introduction of organic brown rice syrup into food processing, even the savvy consumer may unknowingly be ingesting arsenic.

Recognizing the danger, Brian Jackson and other Dartmouth researchers conducted a study to determine the concentrations of arsenic in commercial food products containing organic brown rice syrup including infant formula, cereal/energy bars, and high-energy foods used by endurance athletes

The results were alarming. One of the infant formulas had a total arsenic concentration of six times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) safe drinking water limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for total arsenic. Cereal bars and high-energy foods using organic brown rice syrup also had higher arsenic concentrations than those without the syrup.

Jackson,director of the Trace Element Analysis Core Facility at Dartmouth and a member of the college's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) ‑funded Superfund Research Program, is lead author on the study published February 16, 2012, in Environmental Health Perspectives. His collaborators include researchers in Dartmouth's EPA and NIEHS‑funded Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center.

Jackson and his colleagues purchased commercial food products containing organic brown rice syrup and compared them with similar products that didn't contain the syrup

Seventeen infant formulas, 29 cereal bars, and 3 energy "shots" were all purchased from local stores in the Hanover, New Hampshire area. Of the 17 infant milk formulas tested, only two had listed organic brown rice syrup as the primary ingredient. These two formulas, one dairy-based and one soy-based, were extremely high in arsenic, more than 20 times greater than the other formulas.

The amount of inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form, averaged 8.6 ppb for the dairy based formula and 21.4 ppb for the soy formula. This is of concern because these concentrations are comparable to, or greater than, the current U.S. drinking water limit of 10 ppb, and that limit does not account for the low body weight of infants and the corresponding increase in arsenic consumption per kilogram of body weight.

The Dartmouth researchers also tested 29 cereal bars and three types (flavors) of an energy product obtained from a supermarket. Twenty-two of the bars listed at least one of four rice products—organic brown rice syrup, rice flour, rice grain, and rice flakes—in the first five ingredients.

The cereal bars ranged from 8 to 128 ppb in total arsenic; those that had no rice ingredients were lowest in arsenic and ranged from 8 to 27 ppb, whereas those that did contain a rice ingredient ranged from 23 to 128 ppb total arsenic

With recent news coverage of the potential for rice to contain arsenic, educated consumers may be aware that cereal/energy bars containing rice ingredients could also contain arsenic.

The authors note that, "By contrast the energy shots are gel-like blocks and, like the infant formulas, it would not be immediately apparent to the consumer that these too are rice-based products." One of the three flavors of energy shots tested revealed about 84 ppb total arsenic (100 percent inorganic arsenic), while the other two showed 171 ppb total arsenic (53 percent inorganic arsenic).

Jackson and his colleagues conclude that in the face of the increasing prevalence of hidden arsenic in food, and the absence of U. S. regulations in this area, "there is an urgent need for regulatory limits on arsenic in food." Check out what's in the product to see whether it's the same as what's on the label. Some independent labs have tested a variety of foods found on store shelves. On another note, you may be interested in watching the documentary "The Men Who Made Us Fat."

If you're in the Sacramento area and other areas under Pacific Standard Time, you may want to check out the three-partdocumentary: "The Men Who Made Us Fat" at the following times and dates.

The Men Who Made Us Fat: Part 1

Jacques Peretti travels to America to investigate the history of high-fructose corn syrup and how it has made its way into nearly all processed foods and soft drinks.

The Men Who Made Us Fat: Part 2

Jacques Peretti investigates how the concept of 'supersizing' changed our eating habits forever. How did we -- once a nation of moderate eaters -- start to want more?

The Men Who Made Us Fat: Part 3

In the final installment, Jacques Peretti examines how product marketing can seduce consumers into buying supposed 'healthy foods' that are in fact not healthy at all.

Airtimes: Pacific Standard Time.

Timezone: P M C E Tuesday, March 25th 08:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 26th 05:00 p.m., Thursday, March 27th , 01:00 p.m., Friday, March 28th, 09:00 a.m., Saturday, March 29th 04:00 p.m. DISH Network Channel 9410 and DIRECTV Channel 375.|

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