April 24, 2013
NEW ORLEANSA scientific paper that made headlines around the world claiming imported rice contains high levels of lead has been withdrawn by its author after an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other scientists revealed the data was never verified or peer reviewed prior to its presentation at the American Chemical Society (ACS) conference earlier this month.
Tsanangurayi Tongesayi, Ph.D., from Monmouth University, led the analysis of rice imported from Asia, Europe and South America. His poster presentation caused an international uproar after he concluded rice imported from certain countriesmost reportedly Taiwan and Chinacontains high levels of lead that could pose health risks, particularly for infants and children and adults of Asian heritage who consume large amounts of rice.
In his presentation, Tongesayi claimed for infants and children, the daily exposure levels from eating the rice products analyzed in the study would be 30-60 times higher than the FDA's provisional total tolerable intake (PTTI) levels. He also said Asians consume more rice, and for these infants and children, exposures would be 60-120 times higher. For adults, the daily exposure levels were 20-40 times higher than the PTTI levels.
David Janow, CEO of Axiom Foods and a founding member of the World Rice Alliance, said the scare about lead in rice has been sensationalized. He said food companies know that arsenic and lead are an inherent challenge with rice and other translocator foods are extremely careful to source from the most pristine parts of the world and to change sources if arsenic and lead tests start running higher. They also work on technology to remove additional arsenic and lead. For information on sourcing cleaner rice and rice products, rely on information from the World Rice Alliance.
In the case of the study in question, Janows team spoke directly with Tongesayi who said the rice in the study was sourced from New Jersey grocery stores"; the researchers did not identify or disclose where exactly in Asia, Europe and South America" the contaminated rice originated; and the results from one of the places we had sent our samples just came in and all levels are less that 1 ppm using a different method even though XRF results from another lab still gave high values in the ppm range. Tongesayi blamed the flawed study on instrumentation used for analysis of heavy metals in the rice.
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