POSTED: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 6:30pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 6:34pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — An explosive new report finds what experts are calling alarming levels of arsenic in rice.
It may affect every rice dish we eat, including baby food.
Consumer Reports scientists tested more than 200 of the most popular brands of rice products.
They found elevated levels of arsenic.
"This isn't a matter of trace amounts. These are moderate to moderately high levels of arsenic," says Consumer Reports scientist Urvashi Rangan.
Arsenic is a known carcinogen.
It's unclear whether the amounts found in rice would have any health impact, but high enough levels over time could lead to several types of cancer.
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate arsenic levels in food, only drinking water.
The agency has begun its own investigation.
Preliminary data show levels as high as Consumer Reports, but with wide variations from product to product.
"We need a larger data base to do the kinds of risk analysis to really look at what is the nature and extent of the problem," FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg says.
The problem begins with where rice grows, in wet fields.
That makes it easier for rice to absorb arsenic that occurs naturally in soil.
85-percent of the rice Americans consume is grown in this country.
The USA Rice Federation says it's working with the FDA to examine arsenic levels, but reminds consumers that the product has been feeding billions of people for thousands of years.
"There have never been any scientific studies that positively link rice consumption and adverse health effects," notes the federation's Stacey Fitzgerald-Redd.
Many experts are waiting to recommend changing any dietary habits until more studies on the link between arsenic and rice can be completed.