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International policies on arsenic levels in food

International policies on arsenic levels in food. Credit: Professor Andrew Meharg/University of Aberdeen

Research conducted by Professor Andrew Meharg at the University of Aberdeen and colleagues has revealed that rice grown in certain parts of the world contains relatively high levels of inorganic arsenic. Arsenic is highly toxic, and continuous exposure to relatively low levels in the diet can result in serious illness and death.

Data breakout

73% Calorific intake made up from rice in 140 million Bangladeshis
450 grams Amount of rice eaten by Bangladeshis per person per day (compared to 16g in Britain)
7 Number of grants, of four different types, that contributed to the research

Long-term BBSRC-funded research by Professor Andrew Meharg and others has shown that rice contains about ten times more arsenic than other crops, and that rice from some regions, such as Bangladesh, India, China and the USA often contains even higher levels of arsenic as it is grown on contaminated land.

At the moment, however, there are no EU or US regulations governing the arsenic content of food. Meharg’s findings have led to a major EU review of arsenic levels in food, and UK and international policy-makers are reviewing guidelines and have published health warnings for consumers.

Read the full impact evidence report: