Does Organic Brown Rice Contain Arsenic?

Rice is a staple food for billions of people around the world. However, there have been concerns in recent years about arsenic contamination in rice. Arsenic is a toxic heavy metal that occurs naturally in the environment. Long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic can cause health problems. So an important question is: does organic brown rice contain arsenic?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, organic brown rice does contain some arsenic. However, organic brown rice tends to have lower arsenic levels compared to conventional brown rice. Proper cooking methods can help further reduce any arsenic.

Arsenic in Rice: An Overview

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can be found in various sources, including soil, water, and air. It is a toxic substance that can have serious health implications when consumed in high amounts. One common concern is the presence of arsenic in rice, particularly organic brown rice. In this article, we will explore how arsenic gets into rice, the potential health impacts of arsenic exposure, and the guidelines and regulations in place to ensure food safety.

How arsenic gets into rice

Arsenic enters the rice plant through its roots, primarily from the soil and water it grows in. This is because arsenic is naturally present in many soils, and it can also be released into the environment through human activities such as mining and the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers. Rice plants have a unique ability to absorb and accumulate arsenic more than other crops, making them particularly susceptible to contamination.

It’s important to note that both conventional and organic rice can contain arsenic. However, some studies have suggested that organic rice may have slightly higher levels of arsenic compared to conventionally grown rice. This is because organic farming practices often rely on natural sources of fertilizers, such as manure, which can contain trace amounts of arsenic.

Health impacts of arsenic exposure

Arsenic is a known carcinogen, and long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic has been linked to various health issues, including certain types of cancer (such as lung, bladder, and skin cancer), cardiovascular disease, and neurological effects. It is important to note that the health risks associated with arsenic depend on the level and duration of exposure, as well as individual susceptibility.

To mitigate the potential health risks, it is recommended to consume rice in moderation and to vary your diet by including a variety of grains and other food sources. Additionally, cooking rice with excess water and draining it can help reduce arsenic levels, as some of the arsenic may leach out during the cooking process.

Arsenic guidelines and regulations

Recognizing the concern over arsenic in rice, both national and international organizations have established guidelines and regulations to ensure food safety. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set a limit of 100 parts per billion (ppb) for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal, while the European Union has set a limit of 200 ppb for rice and rice-based products.

It’s important to stay informed about the latest guidelines and recommendations from health authorities and regulatory agencies. These organizations regularly monitor and assess the levels of arsenic in rice and other foods to ensure they meet safety standards. If you have specific concerns about arsenic in rice or any other food, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice.

Arsenic Levels in Organic vs Conventional Brown Rice

Key research findings

When it comes to the question of whether organic brown rice contains arsenic, research studies have provided some interesting insights. One study conducted by the Consumer Reports found that organic brown rice tends to have lower levels of arsenic compared to conventionally grown rice. This may come as a relief to those who are concerned about the potential health risks associated with arsenic consumption.

In the study, samples of both organic and conventional brown rice were analyzed for their arsenic content. The results showed that on average, organic brown rice had about 20% less arsenic than its conventional counterpart. While this may not eliminate all concerns about arsenic in rice, it does suggest that choosing organic brown rice could be a step towards reducing exposure to this potentially harmful element.

Reasons for lower arsenic in organic rice

There are a few reasons why organic brown rice tends to have lower levels of arsenic. First, organic farming practices typically focus on building healthy soil, which can help reduce the uptake of arsenic from the environment. Organic farmers often use natural fertilizers and crop rotation techniques that promote soil health and minimize the presence of contaminants.

Additionally, organic farming prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides, which can contain arsenic. By avoiding the use of these chemicals, organic farmers reduce the potential for arsenic contamination in their crops.

Furthermore, organic certification standards require regular testing of soil and water for contaminants, including arsenic. This helps ensure that organic farmers are taking measures to minimize arsenic levels in their products and provides an additional layer of assurance for consumers.

It’s important to note that while organic brown rice generally has lower levels of arsenic, it’s still essential to cook rice properly to further reduce any potential risk. Rinsing rice thoroughly before cooking and using a ratio of 6 cups of water to 1 cup of rice can help remove some of the arsenic.

For more information on the topic, you can check out the Consumer Reports website at

Tips to Reduce Arsenic Exposure from Rice

Choose organic and basmati rice

When it comes to reducing arsenic exposure from rice, choosing organic and basmati rice varieties can be a smart move. Organic rice is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, reducing the risk of contamination. Basmati rice, which is primarily grown in India and Pakistan, has been found to have lower levels of arsenic compared to other rice varieties.

By opting for organic and basmati rice, you can enjoy a delicious meal while minimizing your exposure to arsenic.

Rinse rice before cooking

Rinsing rice before cooking is a simple yet effective way to reduce arsenic levels. By rinsing the rice thoroughly with water, you can remove some of the surface arsenic. It is recommended to rinse rice at least once or ideally a few times before cooking.

Remember to use plenty of water while rinsing and make sure to discard the rinsing water. This process can help to minimize the arsenic content in your cooked rice.

Cook rice like pasta

Cooking rice like pasta, where you use excess water and then drain it, can help reduce arsenic levels. The traditional method of cooking rice, where you use a fixed amount of water, can lead to the rice absorbing more arsenic.

By using a larger amount of water and draining the excess after the rice is cooked, you can effectively reduce the arsenic content. This method is particularly useful for non-basmati rice varieties.

Limit rice intake

While rice can be a staple in many diets, it is important to be mindful of the quantity consumed. As rice tends to absorb more arsenic from the soil compared to other crops, limiting your rice intake can help reduce arsenic exposure.

This doesn’t mean you have to completely eliminate rice from your diet. Instead, try incorporating a variety of grains such as quinoa, millet, or barley to diversify your meals and reduce reliance on rice.

By following these tips, you can make informed choices and reduce your exposure to arsenic while still enjoying the goodness of rice.

The Bottom Line

While it is true that there are trace amounts of arsenic found in brown rice, the overall health benefits of consuming organic brown rice far outweigh the potential risks. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can be found in soil, water, and air. It can also be present in some types of food, including rice. However, the levels of arsenic found in brown rice are generally considered to be safe for consumption.

Organic brown rice is a nutritious whole grain that is high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It provides a range of health benefits, such as improving digestion, promoting heart health, and aiding in weight management. It is also a great source of energy and can be a staple food in a balanced diet.

How to Minimize Arsenic Exposure

If you are concerned about the levels of arsenic in brown rice, there are steps you can take to minimize your exposure:

  • Choose organic brown rice: Organic farming practices tend to result in lower levels of arsenic compared to conventional farming methods.
  • Rinse the rice thoroughly: Rinsing brown rice before cooking can help remove some of the arsenic.
  • Diversify your grain intake: Incorporating a variety of grains into your diet can help reduce your overall exposure to arsenic.
  • Limit rice consumption: While brown rice is a healthy food, it is always a good idea to consume it in moderation as part of a varied diet.

It’s important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regularly monitors the levels of arsenic in rice and provides guidelines to help consumers make informed choices. They recommend that individuals, especially pregnant women and young children, consume a varied diet that includes a variety of grains to minimize any potential risks associated with arsenic exposure.


In summary, organic brown rice does contain some arsenic. However, research shows that organic brown rice tends to have lower arsenic levels compared to conventional brown rice. By choosing organic, rinsing and properly cooking rice, and varying your diet, you can reduce arsenic exposure from rice. Overall, rice can still be part of a healthy diet with a balanced approach to arsenic risks.

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