Are gluten-free substitutes made from rice safe?
Q. I am on a gluten-free diet and often eat pasta made with rice flour. Now that arsenic has been found in rice, are those gluten-free products safe?
A. Our recent tests did find varying and concerning levels of inorganic arsenic, which is a carcinogen, in a variety of rice products, including rice pastas and rice flour often used by people on gluten-free diets. Special processing steps can reduce arsenic in rice. But the methods typically used to make processed rice foods likely do not reduce arsenic levels by much. In some cases, the arsenic may even be more concentrated. Based on our analysis, we recommend people limit their consumption of rice and rice products to no more than two or three servings per week, and try other grains until federal limits are set for the amount of arsenic permitted in foods. Though not arsenic-free, wheat and oats tend to have lower levels than rice. And for those on a gluten-free diet, quinoa, millet, and amaranth are among other options, though they have not been studied for arsenic as much.
See our Report on arsenic in your food.
Keep in mind that federal limits on arsenic in food and beverages are still not in place. This week, Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration to express deep concern about the delays.
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