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Rice safe to eat despite arsenic levels, FDA says

While the long-term health risks remain unclear after studies found “concerned levels” of arsenic in rice, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given the all-clear to eat rice-related products.

CBS News reports the FDA released the reassuring, new guidance on Friday, but noted research is necessary to issue a definitive determination.

"These are the next steps," Dr. Suzanne C. Fitzpatrick, senior adviser for toxicology at the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told the news organization.

"To look at exposure levels, to analyze the risk, and determine how to minimize that risk for the overall safety of consumers, including vulnerable groups like children and pregnant women.”
Prior research  -- including studies from Dartmouth University and Consumer Reports -- reportedly found heightened levels of “inorganic arsenic” linked to rice and rice products, like infant formula and cereal bars.

And although arsenic is naturally found in the environment, concerns arose over the more toxic “inorganic” variant, linked to the burning of fossil fuels or use of pesticides, according to CBS News.

Arsenic – and specifically the inorganic type – is known to cause cancer and a host of other health-related problems.

"One of the things we need to emphasize is that arsenic is a naturally occurring contaminant, and because it's in soil and water, it's going to get into food," Fitzpatrick reportedly added. "It's not something that we can just pull off the market."

In arriving at its determination, the FDA tested more than 1,300 samples of rice and rice-related products, and found the levels of "inorganic arsenic" were too low to cause immediate health damage, according to CBS News.