Ask Leah! The Ingles Dietitian

Sponsored: Should I be worried about arsenic in my food?

ingles dietitianQUESTION: Should I be worried about arsenic in my food?  

ANSWER: There are two different types of arsenic, organic and inorganic. Inorganic arsenic is found naturally in rocks, especially in areas where there is or has been volcanic activity.

Organic arsenic is a byproduct of mining and is found in products like fertilizers, pesticides, paints, and in those used in the preservation of wood. There is also the possibility of exposure to arsenic in various work environments and even in our air through industrial pollutants. Certain herbal and homeopathic supplements like kelp have been found to have high levels of arsenic contamination. (source: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1226-arsenic.aspx?activeingredientid=1226&activeingredientname=arsenic )

Buying USDA organic products will not eliminate arsenic from your food because arsenic can be found naturally in soil and water. Municipal water systems must comply with EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and test to make sure that arsenic does not exceed established limits of 10 ppb (parts per billion).

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has regularly tested foods and beverages for the presence of arsenic since 1991. Over 1000 samples of rice have been tested for arsenic since 2011. “The levels FDA found in its testing are too low to cause immediate or short-term adverse health effects.” Testing of samples of apple juice also found the level of arsenic to be low but it was proposed that the safe level of arsenic in apple juice should be set to EPA’s limit for safety of drinking water. The FDA states that long-term effects of exposure to arsenic merit further study. (Source: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/ucm280202.htm#FAQs )

Long term exposure to arsenic has been linked to liver and kidney damage as well as increased risk of infections. 

How can you limit your exposure to arsenic in foods and beverages:

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Eat a varied diet – Since rice has been targeted for the amount of arsenic, vary your grains and incorporate others into your meals like oats, quinoa, barley and wheat (pastas). 

Water – If you get municipal water, check the annual report on the water quality. If you are on well water make sure to have your water tested.

Juices – If you are concerned about arsenic in juices, limit the amount of juices you and your family consume. 

 

Leah McGrath, RDN, LDN

Ingles Markets Corporate Dietitian

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800-334-4936

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