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Do arsenic levels in rice pose a health risk to the UK population?

Menon, M., Sarkar, B., Hufton, J. , Reynolds, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-1073-7394, Reina, S. V. & Young, S. (2020). Do arsenic levels in rice pose a health risk to the UK population?. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 197, 110601. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2020.110601


Consumption of rice and rice products can be a significant exposure pathway to inorganic arsenic (iAs), which is a group 1 carcinogen to humans. The UK follows the current European Commission regulations so that iAs concentrations must be < 0.20 mg kg-1 in white (polished) rice and <0.25 mg kg-1 in brown (unpolished) rice. However, iAs concentration in rice used for infant food production or direct consumption has been set at a maximum of 0.1 mg kg-1. In this context, this study aimed to evaluate iAs concentrations in different types of rice sold in the UK and to quantify the health risks to the UK population. Here, we evaluated 55 different types of rice purchased from a range of retail outlets. First, we analysed all rice types for total As (tAs) concentration from which 42 rice samples with tAs > 0.1 mg kg-1 were selected for As speciation using HPLC-ICP-MS. Based on the average concentration of iAs of our samples, we calculated values for the Lifetime Cancer Risk (LCR), Target Hazard Quotient (THQ) and Margin of Exposure (MoE). We found a statistically significant difference between organically and non-organically grown rice. We also found that brown rice contained a significantly higher concentration of iAs compared to white or wild rice. Notably, 28 rice samples exceeded the iAs maximum limit stipulated by the EU (0.1 mg kg-1) with an average iAs concentration of 0.13 mg kg-1; therefore consumption of these rice types could be riskier for infants than adults. Based on the MoE, it was found that infants up to 1 year must be restricted to a maximum of 20 g per day for the 28 rice types to avoid carcinogenic risks. We believe that consumers could be better informed whether the marketed product is fit for infants and young children, via appropriate product labelling containing information about iAs concentration.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. You are not required to obtain permission to reuse this article. To request permission for a type of use not listed, please contact Elsevier Global Rights Department.
Publisher Keywords: Total arsenic; Arsenic speciation; Lifetime cancer risk; Rice consumption; Target hazard quotient; Margin of exposure
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
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Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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