Arsenic & Old Rice

There has been a lot in the press recently about the amount of arsenic in rice. Apparently, rice cooked in the ration 1:2 with water (the normal rice cooker method) has a level of arsenic which would not be safe for an infant. So should we worry?!

Arsenic was a traditional way of committing a quiet murder. It could be obtained easily and fed gradually – the poison built up to a fatal level in the bloodstream – without the victim knowing why they were becoming so ill.

Rice contains arsenic naturally because of the way it is grown, in paddy fields flooded with water. You may wonder why, then, the populations of China and Japan seem to live to ripe old age and are not succumbing in their millions. The answers are a) they also eat a lot of noodles; b) they wash their rice. Japanese friends of ours eat rice nearly every day, in a rice cooker. But, importantly, they rinse the rice several times in fresh water, and may even leave it to soak for several hours.

In the UK our diet has changed over the last 40 years or so to include a lot more main course rice dishes. Hence the new idea that we could actually be consuming way too much of a deadly substance.

Apparently the Bitspicy method of cooking rice (shove it in a pan, cover with copious amounts of cold water, bring to the boil and watch until ready, then rinse) is fine as the excess water cleans away the arsenic to safe levels. Any technique which uses lots of water is better than using a steamer (or 1:2 ratio) and not rinsing first.

So, in summary, eat basmati, as this is lower in arsenic. And for all types of rice, rinse it well. This goes for rice pudding, risotto, Mexican rice…

But also retain a speck of realism. After all, do you really want to live for ever?!

 

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