A few months back, FoodFacts.com reported on the concerns surrounding arsenic levels in our rice. As if that wasn’t concerning enough, today we came across new information that we wanted to make sure to share with our community. We can now add lead levels to our concerns regarding our rice supply.

It appears that some of the rice imported into the United states contain high levels of lead. The study coming out of Monmouth University was presented at an American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans this week. Researchers have found that consumers are being exposed to much higher than acceptable amounts of lead through the consumption of imported rice. Imported rice accounts for about 7% of the rice consumed in this country.

Disturbingly, Tsanangurayi Tongesayi, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Monmouth says that the researchers found some of the highest levels of lead in baby food.

Lead is a neurotoxin: it damages the brain, and in young children whose brains are still growing, it can seriously diminish their capacity to learn and develop intellectually. There is also evidence that it can disrupt children’s behavior, such as make them more aggressive, impulsive and hyperactive. Lead also increases blood pressure and causes cardiovascular disease in adults. It can cause calcium deficiencies and cause anemia.

The researchers noted that agriculture, mining and chemical industry is putting an increased level of toxic heavy metals like lead into the food supply.

While the United States is a large producer and exporter of rice, we also import the grain. Current estimates place imported rice at about 7% of total U.S. consumption. Americans consume a little over 4 million metric tons of rice each year – about 31 pounds per person. And that figure is growing as our population increases and as we become a more diverse society. Asian and Hispanic communities consume more rice than other ethnicities in our country. In addition, the introduction of new rice-based products is on the rise.

The highest lead levels in rice was reported to be imported from Taiwan and China. Rice from Italy, India, Thailand, the Czech Republic and Bhutan also contained high lead levels.
Brazil and Pakistan were still being analyzed, so they weren’t able to report on those.

The study shows that for adults, the daily lead exposure levels from eating imported rice are about 20 to 40 times higher than the FDA’s acceptable levels.

For infants and children, the daily exposure levels would be about 30 to 60 times higher. This is especially concerning considering that infants and children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning.

FoodFacts.com wants to encourage everyone in our community to be as vigilant as possible in understanding the origin of the rice products you purchase. Reading labels is always our responsibility and becomes even more important when reports such as this surface. We will continue to look for information regarding this research and keep you up to date as we learn more about this important news.