Feb. 16, 2012
Research findings in the arsenic study published today in Environmental Health Perspectives Online add to a growing body of evidence supporting the conclusion that arsenic dietary exposures pose a serious food safety problem. Arsenic is a natural element that can contaminate soil, as well as groundwater used for drinking and irrigation. Legacy residues from decades of routine use of arsenic-based herbicides and insecticides pose a real threat to all food production, organic and conventional. Regardless of how it is raised, rice plants growing in soils still contaminated with arsenic will extract the element from the soil, and some will be present in the grain harvested from those plants. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) agrees with the researchers that it is time for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to work together to set and enforce regulatory limits on arsenic in our food supply.
Both the government and food industry must determine now whether any consumer food products containing brown rice sugar, whether conventional or organic, contain arsenic levels high enough to justify product recalls or changes in ingredients.
Past research has also confirmed the presence of hot-spots for arsenic soil contamination, as well as areas free, or nearly free of arsenic residues in soil. Any rice product destined for baby food or children’s food should come only from regions known to have arsenic-free soils. Prevention is a core principle of organic farming and food processing, and will drive the response to this new challenge across the organic food industry.
For its part, OTA will put together a task force to proactively work on solutions to address this issue within the organic industry.