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Arsenic Speciation in Rice Cereals for Infants


Arsenic occurs either naturally in the environment (in soil or from atmospheric inputs due to volcanism) or has been introduced into the soil as the result of human activity such as the use of arsenic-based pesticides or the use of seaweed as a fertilizer. Processes within the soil can transform arsenic species into forms that are bioavailable for plant uptake, which allow it to enter the food supply.

Rice plants are especially efficient at accumulating arsenic from their anaerobic environment because the paddy cultivation in flooded areas enhances bioavailability of arsenic compounds. For this reason,  rice can be a significant source of arsenic for consumers. The toxicity of arsenic in foods depends on its chemical form and bioaccessibility.

Inorganic arsenic is classified as cancerogen and human exposure through the food should be avoided or at least minimized. However, up to now, neither the United States nor the European Union have set limits for arsenic in food products, including rice. Since it is not clear how harmful arsenic in rice may be to the human population,  new data especially on the speciation of arsenic in food could aid in risk assessment. On September 19, 2012, the FDA released the first analytical results of nearly 200 samples of rice and rice products collected in the U.S. marketplace (see the News below). Rice samples from the US have shown higher total arsenic levels when compared to other samples from around the world. Brown rice from all locations was shown to contain more arsenic than white rice. Infants may be at higher risk because they are more susceptible to the harmful effects of arsenic than adults.

The new study:
The aim of this new study was to conduct a survey of arsenic content in rice cereals for infants. The analytical method was based on the FDA Elemental Analysis Manual (EAM 4.11) which is using an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) to determine total As. The same ICP-MS coupled to a high-performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC) was used to perform As speciation analysis.  Ion exchange chromatography was used for species separation, with the advantage of a simple buffer systems and isocratic conditions, allowing for simple connection of these separation systems to ICP, without having any system or chemical modification to change for the detection of the arsenicals. Using this HPLC-ICP-MS approach, the total and speciated arsenic was determined in 31 different infant rice cereals sold in U.S. supermarkets.

The mass fraction of total inorganic As (iAs; sum of arsenite As(III) and arsenate As(V)) concentrations ranged between 55.5 ± 1.3 and 158.0 ± 6.0 µg/kg. The average total arsenic and iAs concentrations in infant rice cereal were 174.4 and 101.4 µg/kg, respectively. There was no substantial difference in iAs levels between organic and conventional rice cereals and the mixed-grain rice cereal contained the least total (105 µg/kg) and inorganic arsenic (63 µg/kg).  The major detected organoarsenical species was dimethylarsinic acid (DMA). Monomethylarsonic acid (MMA) was not detected, or only trace levels were found.  While total As concentrations as high as 272 µg/kg were observed, the Chinese maximum allowed concentration of 150 µg/kg iAs in rice was slightly surpassed by only one American rice cereal (organic whole grain rice cereal).

The new study:

Rima Juskelis, Wanxing Li, Jenny Nelson, Jack C. Cappozzo, Arsenic Speciation in Rice Cereals for Infants,  J. Agric. Food Chem., 61 (2013) 10670-10676. doi: 10.1021/jf401873z

Related studies:

Brian P. Jackson, Vivien F. Taylor, Tracy Punshon, Kathryn L. Cottingham, Arsenic concentration and speciation in infant formulas and first foods, Pure Appl. Chem., 84/2 (2012) 215–223. doi: 10.1351/PAC-CON-11-09-17

Tomohiro Narukawa, Akiharu Hioki, Koichi Chiba, Speciation and Monitoring Test for Inorganic Arsenic in White Rice Flour, J. Agric.Food Chem., 60 (2012) 1122-1127. doi: 10.1021/jf204240p

Brian P. Jackson, Vivien F. Taylor, Margaret R. Karagas, Tracy Punshon, Kathryn L. Cottingham, Arsenic, Organic Foods, and Brown Rice Syrup, Environ. Health Perspect., 120 (2012) 623–626. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104619

Jörg Feldmann, Eva M. Krupp, Critical review or scientific opinion paper: Arsenosugars — a class of benign arsenic species or justification for developing partly speciated arsenic fractionation in foodstuffs?, Anal Bioanal Chem (2011) 399:1735 – 1741. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-010-4303-6

Karin Ljung, Brita Palm, Margaretha Grander, Marie Vahter, High concentrations of essential and toxic elements in infant formula and infant foods – A matter of concern, Food Chem., 127/3 (2011) 943–951. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2011.01.062

A. Meharg, A. Raab, Getting to the bottom of arsenicstandards and guidelines, Environ. Sci. Technol., 44 (2010) 4395–4399. doi: 0.1021/es9034304

T. Nishimura, M. Hanao-Nagaoka, N. Sakakibara, T. Abe, Y. Maekawa, T. Maitani, Determination method for total arsenic and partial-digestion method with nitric acid for inorganic arsenic speciation in several varieties of rice, J. Food Hyg. Soc. Jap., 51/4 (2010) 178-181. doi: 10.3358/shokueishi.51.178

Feng Liang, Yulan Li, Guilin Zhang, Mingguang Tan, Jun Lin, Wei Liu, Yan Li, Wenwei Lu, Total and speciated arsenic levels in rice from China, Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A, 27 (2010) 810—816. DOI: 10.1080/19440041003636661

Andrew A. Meharg, Paul N. Williams, Eureka Adomako, Youssef Y. Lawgali, Claire Deacon, Antia Villada, Robert C. J. Cambell, Guoxin Sun, Yong-Guan Zhu, Joerg Feldmann, Andrea Raab, Fang-Jie Zhao, Rafiqul Islam, Shahid Hossain, and Junta Yanai, Geographical Variation in Total and Inorganic Arsenic Content of Polished (White) Rice, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2009, 43 (5), 1612-1617. DOI: 10.1021/es802612a

Gareth J. Norton, Guilan Duan, Tapash Dasgupta, M. Rafiqul Islam, Ming Lei, Yongguan Zhu, Claire M. Deacon, Annette C. Moran, Shofiqul Islam, Fang-Jie Zhao , Jacqueline L. Stroud, Steve P. McGrath, Joerg Feldmann, Adam H. Price and Andrew A. Meharg, Environmental and Genetic Control of Arsenic Accumulation and Speciation in Rice Grain: Comparing a Range of Common Cultivars Grown in Contaminated Sites Across Bangladesh, China, and India, Environ. Sci. Technol., 43 (2009) 8381–8386. DOI: 10.1021/es901844q

R. Stone, Arsenic and Paddy Rice: A Neglected Cancer Risk?, Science, 321 (2008) 184-185. doi: 10.1126/science.321.5886.184

Andrew A. Meharg, Guoxin Sun, Paul N. Williams, Eureka Adomako, Claire Deacon, Yong-Guan Zhu, Joerg Feldmann, Andrea Raab, Inorganic arsenic levels in baby rice are of concern, Environmental Pollution 152 (2008) 746e749.  doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2008.01.043

Guo-Xin Sun, Paul N. Williams, Anne-Marie Carey, Yong-Guan Zhu, Claire Deacon, Andrea Raab, Joerg Feldmann, Rafiqul M. Islam, Andrew A. Meharg, Inorganic Arsenic in Rice Bran and Its Products Are an Order of Magnitude Higher than in Bulk Grain, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2008, 42, 7542–7546. doi: 10.1021/es801238p

A.A. Meharg, E. Lombi, P.N.Williams, K.G. Scheckel, J. Feldmann, A. Raab, Y.G. Zhu, R. Islam, Speciation and Localization of Arsenic in White and Brown Rice Grains,  Environ. Sci. Technol., 42 (2008) 1051–1057. doi: 10.1021/es702212p

Andrew A. Meharg, Claire Deacon, Robert C. J. Campbell, Anne-Marie Carey, Paul N. Williams, Joerg Feldmann, Andrea Raab, Inorganic arsenic levels in rice milk exceed EU and US drinking water standards, J. Environ. Monit., 10 (2008) 428–431. doi: 10.1039/b800981c

P.N. Williams, A.H. Price, A. Raab, S.A. Hossain, J. Feldmann, and A.A. Meharg, Variation in Arsenic Speciation and Concentration in Paddy Rice Related to Dietary Exposure, Environ. Sci. Technol., 39 (2005) 5531–5540. DOI: 10.1021/es0502324

Nohora P. Vela, Douglas T. Heitkemper, Total Arsenic Determination and Speciation in Infant Food Products by Ion Chromatography-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry, J.AOAC Iint., 87/1 (2004) 244-252. available via ingentaconnect

Related Information

U.S. FDA: Arsenic in food and Dietary Supplements
U.S. FDA, March 2020: Testing for inorganic Arsenic in Rice Cereals for Infants
U.S. FDA, April 2016: Analytical Results from Inorganic As in Rice Cereals for Infants and Other foods Eaten by Infants
U.S. FDA, September 2013: Full Analytical Results from Rice/Rice Product Sampling

Related EVISA Resources

Link Database: Human exposure to arsenic from the diet
Link Database: Analytical Methods for Arsenic Speciation Analysis
Link Database: Toxicity of inorganic Arsenic
Link Page: All about food science
Brief Summary: LC-ICP-MS: The most often used hyphenated system for speciation analysis
Material Database: Materials for Arsenic speciation analysis

Related EVISA News

May 15, 2013: Arsenic species in rice: Origin, uptake and geographical variation
September 21, 2012: Arsenic in Rice : First results from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
January 4, 2011: Arsenic species in rice: Call for analytical laboratories
August 2, 2010: Gut bacteria transform inorganic arsenate leading to more toxic arsenic species
May 19, 2010: China: Inorganic Arsenic in Rice - An Underestimated Health Threat ?
February 23, 2010: US EPA opens inorganic arsenic cancer assessment for public review
December 4, 2009: EFSA: Scientific Opinion on Arsenic in Food
May 26, 2009: UK Food Standards Agency releases research on arsenic in rice milk
January 31, 2009: Using the right recipe for cooking rice reduces toxic inorganic arsenic content
November 11, 2008: EFSA calls for data on arsenic levels in food and water
September 5, 2008: Exposure to inorganic arsenic may increase diabetes risk
March 15, 2008: Arsenic in rice milk exceeds EU and US drinking water standards
February 15, 2008: Arsenic speciation in rice: a question of the rice plant species
December 26, 2007: The effect of thermal treatment on the arsenic speciation in food
March 7, 2007: Elevated Arsenic Levels Found In Rice Grown In South Central States of the USA
August 3, 2005: Surprisingly high concentrations of toxic arsenic species found in U.S. rice
May 15, 2005: Use of organoarsenicals as pesticides may lead to contamination of soils and groundwater with toxic arsenic species

last time modified: November 14, 2013


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