Would You Like Some Rice With Your Arsenic?

“No thank you” would be my natural response had I been asked this question.  Seriously, this latest news regarding yet another poison in our foods, caused yet again by the overuse of  pesticides.

Last week in Portland we were in the midst of a festival called Feast, a series of events and lectures around the celebration of food, with a focus on Oregon’s rich foodie culture, talented chefs and amazing local bounty.  On the 1st night I was lucky enough to go see Mark Bittman, a renowned food journalist, speak about the “Future of our Food”.  The tickets were a gift so I had not done any research or thought much about what he would be covering.  I had heard his name but wasn’t able to connect the dots until I heard him speak.

In this short TED talk Mark Bittman touches on some of the content he shared in his lecture.   He’s funny, he has strong opinions, but mostly he is passionate about quality food – real food – not fake food.  What is real food?

Real Food = Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth

Nutritious = Nourishing

Nourishing = Containing substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition

What is fake food?  Fake food is something packaged up to look like real food, sound like real food, but not contain any real food (see below):

Watch this video – it’s 20 min long but if you only have a a few minutes listen to minutes 7-16, where he summarizes food production over the last 100 years.

So what does this have to do with arsenic in rice?  The subsidies and related growth of mono crops has infected our soil with loads of dangerous chemicals – including arsenic.  Even if you buy organic rice you are at risk.  See consumer reports study of infected products.  Why does organic rice have arsenic?  Because it’s being grown on land that was doused in it while raising a non-organic crop…because it’s in the water…and because arsenic is NOT REGULATED by the FDA.

I can’t imagine why it’s not regulated…isn’t it one of the oldest known poisons?  “Arsenic and Old Lace” anyone????

It’s in our water, it’s in our soil simply because it was used (and in some areas is still being used) as a pesticide.  Even organic rice has arsenic.  It’s unavoidable….but we can take precautions.

Here is what I’m going to do:

  • Try to figure out where my rice is coming from (if it’s coming from the South of the US it is being grown on old cotton land that is LOADED in arsenic.  Ever hear the phrase “cotton kills” – well it’s true in more ways than one
  • Always rinse your rice well before cooking
  • When you cook your rice you can do as they do in many Asian countries and cook it in 6 cups of water for 1 cup of rice and drain off the liquid
  • Limit your rice intake

We will be hearing how this study is “overblown” and we have “nothing to worry  about”….but do you really believe that?

My take-away…food has become really complicated…and I need to figure out my own “food policy”. What am I willing to put in my body?  What food production practices am I will to support?  I am not ready to give up Killer Burger even though I may be scared to find out where their beef comes from…but I am ready to take other steps.

One of the things I like about Mark Bittman’s approach is that we are all on a continuum.  We are somewhere between McDonalds 24×7 and a Vegan.  I’m in the process of searching for my balance.  I’m calling upon my moral and health values to guide me – information is key. I learned some new things last week and wanted to share them with you.  Use at your own risk!

4 thoughts on “Would You Like Some Rice With Your Arsenic?

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