Going Gluten-FreeSeptember 26, 2012

Do You Eat a Lot of Rice?

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Posted by Alicia Woodward

I love rice. Don’t you? With gluten off the table and off the plate, most people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity enjoy rice and rice flours as their favorite go-to alternative grain. Now that the FDA confirms reports of arsenic in rice and rice-based products and Consumer Reports is urging consumers to cut back on eating rice for that reason, are you wondering what to do?

What exactly does this mean to you and your special diet? The American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA) released this statement as background explanation and with advice for gluten-free consumers:

Earlier this year, Consumer Reports tested rice and rice based products and found measurable amounts of both inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, as well as organic arsenic, less toxic but still of concern, in those samples. This information led the FDA to undertake its own study sampling significantly more products and to share the early findings. 

While arsenic is found in foods throughout the food chain, in their natural state or when processed into other products, it’s not known where the threshold of safety ends and harm begins. The FDA indicates it is moving to gather and analyze the data necessary to make sound scientific judgments regarding the levels, which may cause potential health risks.

The ACDA recommends that individuals following a gluten-free diet consume a diverse diet that incorporates a broad range of whole grains, such as corn, quinoa, amaranth, sorghum and buckwheat, into their diet in an effort to maximize nutrition.

The ACDA urges the FDA to act expeditiously, as Americans with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance may be at greater risk of danger as a result of following a gluten-free diet.  

The FDA recommends that people eat “a balanced diet containing a wide variety of grains” but the agency doesn’t recommend that consumers change their rice consumption “at this time.” Note that this recommendation is not specifically targeted at gluten-free consumers, who often eat higher quantities of rice than the rest of the population.

Meanwhile, several Democrats in the U.S. Congress say they’re planning to introduce legislation to require the Food and Drug Administration to set a maximum for the amount of arsenic in foods that contain rice.