It's been all over the news this past year but last week Brian Williams of the NBC Nightly News shared Arsenic findings in Baby and Organic Foods, Energy Gels and Bars. Just when you think you're eating healthy this airs on television and the world wide web. The culprit is Brown Rice Syrup.
After scanning ingredient labels on packages in my pantry I found far too many containing Brown Rice Syrup.
How does the Arsenic get into the Brown Rice Syrup?
Back in the 1940s farmers used arsenic as a pesticide to treat soil, ward off moths, caterpillars, as a preservative for pressure treated wood, animal hides, in some glass manufacturing, and as an additive to harden lead and copper. It was also used to ward off diseases such as syphilis and psoriasis from the 1800s to early 1900s, while some arsenic is still used to treat an uncommon blood cancer known as acute promyelocytic leukemia . Although many years have come and gone it wasn't until 2009 that the EPA banned it from being used as a pesticide.
However, our soil has absorbed the arsenic and remains contaminated to this day. How is arsenic getting into Brown Rice Syrup, which claims to be a healthier substitute for sugar?
Rice is grown on farms where soil has previously been sprayed with arsenic to protect plants from insects. High levels of arsenic still present in the soil are then absorbed into our plants, grains, etc. later to be harvested.
Arsenic occurs in several forms, some thought to be more dangerous than others. Organic forms of arsenic can be found naturally in the soil, along with arsenic-based pesticides used before the EPA banned them in 2009. Rice, takes up more arsenic than all the other grains.
Inorganic arsenic is considered much more toxic than organic arsenic, causing cancer, skin lesions, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes.
Brown rice is produced when the outermost layer of a grain of rice (the husk) is removed. To produce white rice, the next layers underneath the husk (the bran layer and the germ) are removed, leaving mostly the starchy endosperm. Brown rice has a larger concentration in total arsenic and inorganic arsenic than white rice because the outer layer that's removed in white rice contains the inorganic arsenic. However, another form of arsenic can be found inside the grain of both white and brown rice.
Brown rice syrup, or rice syrup, is then made by culturing cooked rice with enzymes (to break down the starches), then straining off the liquid and reducing it by cooking until the desired consistency is reached. The final product is 45% maltose, 3% glucose, and 52% maltotriose. Even still, the arsenic in the brown rice remains after being converted to brown rice syrup.
Arsenic is found from baby foods to our water supply. The EPA sets standards for levels of arsenic allowed in water but there are no standards set for our foods - that needs to change! The question is, knowing that arsenic exists in these foods - will you continue to purchase them or eliminate them from your diet? With so many products and foods on the market it's hard to know what's safe anymore, even after reading the labels, and what to eliminate in my opinion. People still smoke, eat and drink foods known to have health risks. In the end, it's your decision what to do once informed.
What are your thoughts? What will you do, if anything?
I've only touched on one issue while there are so many out there.
I'd love to hear your thoughts!