Intake of inorganic arsenic from food requires monitoring


<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arsenic is present in food in numerous different compounds. Of these, the inorganic arsenic species are the most harmful. Inorganic arsenic has been found to cause lung, skin and bladder cancer among other disorders. A study completed at the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira shows that according to the worst assessments, inorganic arsenic intake from long grain rice can exceed the daily limit considered safe for adults. Correspondingly, inorganic arsenic from rice-based baby foods can slightly exceed the daily limit considered safe.</p>

The study finished in Evira is among the first of its kind in the world. In addition to analysing concentrations of inorganic arsenic in rice-based baby foods, the study examined the intake of inorganic arsenic from researched foods among Finnish people of different ages. 

This intake was compared to the limit value considered safe for inorganic arsenic, 0.3 - 8 micrograms per body weight kilo per day, set by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA.

The intake of inorganic arsenic among different age groups of the population was assessed based on concentration data measured from foods and consumption data on foodstuffs.

“The calculatory intake value was drawn up according to the worst case scenario. This model is based on the largest measured concentration of inorganic arsenic in foods and the largest consumption amounts of said food,” specifies Researcher Eeva-Maria Rintala, who works at the Evira Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit.

Baby foods include low concentrations of arsenic

The study analysed the total and inorganic concentration of arsenic in ten rice-based baby foods and eight types of long grain rice.

In the case of baby foods, the lower concentration of total and inorganic arsenic is due to the fact that baby foods also include other grains and fruit, for example. The total arsenic concentration of rice-based baby foods was under 0.3 milligrams per food kilo. Overall, measurable amounts of inorganic arsenic were found in only four rice-based baby foods.

The highest total arsenic concentration of the studied long grain rice was slightly above 0.5 milligrams per kilo and the concentration of inorganic arsenic was clearly less than 0.5 milligrams per kilo.

Arsenic concentration of foods should be studied

In the study the intake of inorganic arsenic was assessed for one source only, long-grain rice or rice-based baby food.

“In order to assess the cumulative intake of inorganic arsenic from different foods, it will be important in the future to obtain information on concentrations of inorganic arsenic in foods other than rice,” says Rintala.

Development of arsenic analytics continues at Evira. The method will next be applied to the determination of arsenic compounds in other foods including fish, shellfish, grains, drinks and vegetables.

There are currently no limit values for the concentration of inorganic arsenic in foods, excluding drinking water.

“It is possible that threshold values will be set for inorganic arsenic in the future, in order to indicate the highest allowed concentration of inorganic arsenic in specific products, such as baby foods,” Rintala explains. 

The results of the study have been published in a peer-reviewed scientific publication:
Rintala, E.M., Ekholm, P., Koivisto, P., Peltonen, K., Venäläinen, E.R.
  The intake of inorganic arsenic from long grain rice and rice-based baby food in Finland – low safety margin warrants follow up.  
Food Chemistry 2014: 150, pp. 199-205.

Read Evira's press release 4.7.2011  New opportunities for arsenic analysis  

Further information:

Researcher Eeva-Maria Rintala, tel. +358 401680807
Senior Researcher, Ph.D. Eija-Riitta Venäläinen, tel. +358 50 434 8378






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