This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

On rice and arsenic

Last week, a team of researchers from Dartmouth University released a widely publicized study with the somewhat provocative title  “Arsenic, Organic Foods and Brown Rice Syrup.”

The study was yet another general reminder that words like “organic” or “natural” are not synonymous with the word “safe.”  But more specifically it detailed unexpected amounts of poisonous arsenic compounds in everything from infant formula to snack bars, especially compounds containing rice or sweetened with brown organic rice syrup as a healthier alternative to high fructose corn syrup.

I’ll return to the question of exact amounts later; let us just note for now that all findings were in part per billions,  numbers that may raise concerns about long-term exposure but do not suggest that anyone will be dropping dead after snacking on a cereal bar.

The more interesting immediate question anyway, at least to me, was:  why were Dartmouth chemist Brian Jackson and his colleagues looking for arsenic in these supposedly healthy products at all?  I rapidly discovered though that I just hadn’t been paying attention. They were simply following up on an issue well known in health science, a body of work establishing a troubling connection between rice and arsenic in the food supply.

In fact, my use of the word “unexpected” probably is more accurate in describing dismayed public reaction to the results.  The authors of the new study emphasized that their working hypothesis, from the start, was that  brown rice syrup would introduce arsenic into these foods.

So why rice in particular?

Read more

TAGGED: BIOLOGY


RELATED CONTENT

Bonobo makes stone tools like early...

Hannah Krakauer - New Scientist Comments

Kanzi the bonobo is able to create and use stone tools

Scientists Discover Previously Unknown...

- - URMC Comments

Newer Imaging Technique Brings ‘Glymphatic System’ to Light

Grey parrots use reasoning where...

- - The Royal Society Comments

Research suggesting that grey parrots can reason about cause and effect from audio cues alone- a skill that monkeys and dogs lack- is presented in Proceedings of the Royal Society B today.

Why do organisms build tissues they...

- - Science Blog Comments

Why, after millions of years of evolution, do organisms build structures that seemingly serve no purpose?

New flat-faced human species possibly...

Charles Choi - CBS News Comments

Four decades ago, in 1972, the Koobi Fora Research Project discovered the enigmatic fossilized skull known as KNM-ER 1470 which ignited a now long-standing debate about how many different species of early Homos existed.

A New Species Discovered ... On Flickr

Adam Cole - NPR Comments

One day in May of 2011, Shaun Winterton was looking at pictures of bugs on the Internet when something unusual caught his eye. It was a close shot of a green lacewing — an insect he knew well — but on its wing was an unfamiliar network of black lines and a few flecks of blue.

MORE

MORE BY DEBORAH BLUM

Ghosts in the Machine

Deborah Blum 32 Comments

MORE

Comments

Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment