Arsenic in Your Food – Harmful or Harmless? Food Safety

Arsenic is an element that is widely present in the air, soil, and water at an average concentration of 2-5 parts per million (ppm).  Arsenic can be present in higher quantities in water and soil depending on the nature of the rocks present in the area.  As a result, low levels of arsenic are commonly present in most foods and beverages, not just rice, cereals and apple juice.  Now don’t go turn “poison green” just yet… the levels of arsenic in the food supply are perfectly normal and have been consumed by humans for our entire existence.  Eating a balanced diet, inclusive of products like apple juice and rice, is totally safe, even for pregnant women, children and the elderly.  I’m not trying to be the “Hamburgler,” but most of us should be way more concerned about the amount of refined carbohydrates and saturated fats we eat (and the long term consequences of obesity), verses the arsenic concentration of our foods and beverages.

But for those of you who are curious… Two types of arsenic exist in nature, organic and inorganic, and put together these two forms are referred to as “total arsenic” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Organic arsenic is less of a hazard in food than inorganic arsenic, and the body converts the more harmful inorganic arsenic to the less harmful organic arsenic.   FDA limits inorganic arsenic to 10 parts per billion (ppb) in all foods and beverages.  Why 10 ppb?  That’s simply because there has never been an issue with this level in human or animal studies.  In fact, FDA has been monitoring arsenic levels in food for over 20 years!

Now again, I’m not suggesting you go eat 5 lbs. of rice or drink two gallons of apple juice a day.  In fact, high intakes of arsenic can elevate one’s risk of certain types of cancer and other diseases.  As always, moderation is KEY in preventing chronic disease and living a long, healthy life.  Visit my “Top Ten Ways To Lose Weight And Be Healthy” blog for simple steps to achieve better health!  Additionally, the International Food Information Council provides credible science-based information on arsenic in the food supply.  FDA also has a consumer update page  “FDA Widens the Look at Arsenic and Apple Juice“.

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