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Is there Arsenic In your Brown Rice Supplement?

Rice Protein: Is there Arsenic In your Brown Rice Supplement?
Date - 11/04/2013 - Short Answer - probably not. If you stick with reputable brands then the answer would be they are safe to use. Long Answer: Since 2009 there have been several studies done on rice and brown rice products that have shown that some brown rice based supplements may pose a health risk due to high levels of inorganic arsenic. This seems to mainly effect brown rice SYRUP however levels may be present in all brown rice products including rice protein and rice milk. Most reputable manufacturers now test for arsenic in their products to help ensure your optimal health and safety. Arsenic occurs naturally in the food chain and is found in many foods.

Rice, and in particular brown rice, absorbs nutrients from soil and water and seems to have the highest levels of arsenic however these levels vary depending on where the rice is grown.

Two of our key suppliers of brown rice products, Growing Naturals and SunWarrior, have addressed this issue with FAQ info below.


We understand that levels of inorganic arsenic in rice is of concern in some parts of the world. That is why Growing Naturals is committed to using brown rice ingredients that provide health benefits while being manufactured in a way that ensures there is no notable inorganic arsenic level.

What is Dartmouth's study on arsenic in brown rice syrup, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives?
CLICK HERE for the study published February 2012 about arsenic and brown rice. It is one in a series of studies looking at arsenic levels in food. The stated goal of the study is to encourage the FDA to set regulations for arsenic levels in food, which we agree with. Unfortunately, the study has resulted in misunderstandings and unnecessary fear among consumers because:

1. It compares the levels of arsenic in food to the levels of arsenic in water, which is not comparing "apples to apples". When issuing new food guidelines, the FDA often applies a multiplication factor of 100 to 1,000 times that of water. This is because the recommended intake of water is "8 glasses of water every day" but when was the last time you ate "8 glasses of brown rice every day"? In reality, your daily intake of any one food ingredient will be significantly smaller than that of water thus the chances of arsenic building up in your system is significantly less.
2. It doesn't fully address the difference between inorganic arsenic (which poses a health risk) vs. organic arsenic (which is not known to pose a health risk and is actually needed in low levels by the human body as noted here).

How much arsenic is in our brown rice ingredients?
We want to assure you that our brown rice ingredients do not pose an inorganic arsenic risk. Our brown rice ingredients undergo 3rd party and FDA testing, as we already self-regulate our arsenic levels. The reports find that our levels are either "not detectable" or less than 1ppm (part per million), and only for organic arsenic which is not deemed a risk.

What are acceptable levels of inorganic and organic arsenic levels?
According to California's regulations under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (commonly referred to as "Prop 65", which is significantly stricter than the FDA on many levels), there is a "Safe Harbor" list of two classes of chemicals: those that cause reproductive toxicity and those that are considered carcinogens.
- The table of chemicals that cause reproductive toxicity does not list arsenic.
- The table of "no significant risk levels" for carcinogens lists only inorganic arsenic and does not recognize organic arsenic as a potential for risk.
In addition, Prop 65's requirements are based on exposure, not concentration. The regulations state that human consumption of food does not constitute "exposure" for purposes of warning notification under the Act to the extent that chemicals are naturally-occurring in agricultural products, were not added by any known human activity, and were not avoidable by good agricultural or good manufacturing practices [Title 27, California Code of Regulations, Section 25501(3)(1)].

Why did the tested products have a higher arsenic level than our products?
Our ingredients are not grown in Pakistan, where the majority of brown rice syrup is imported from and where there are higher levels of naturally occurring arsenic in the water and soil. In addition, any naturally occurring arsenic is soluble and easily diminished in our chemical free process that extracts key portions of the whole rice grain.

We follow Good Manufacturing Practices, utilize testing at multiple points of production from seed to shelf including 3rd parties and the FDA, and we take all appropriate precautions to ensure the safety of our products with regard to heavy metals as well as other potential contaminants.

Why is INORGANIC arsenic the one considered a risk?
This research on inorganic arsenic is the basis for California adding inorganic arsenic to their list of known risks. Note that chicken and fish are sited as having more arsenic risk than rice and that the average diet includes as much as 1,000 micrograms of ORGANIC arsenic per day.

The study sites that the EPA set an acceptable level of 10ppb (parts per billion) of arsenic in water, assuming that the majority of arsenic in water is inorganic, thus a higher risk than the organic arsenic found in rice.

What are heavy metals vs trace minerals and when are they beneficial vs toxic?
Though its definition varies, “heavy metals” is the general term given to a group of elements with metallic properties. Some of these metals are nutritionally essential to support life though they are needed in very small quantities. These are referred to as trace minerals and they include: Iron, copper, chromium, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.

Ample evidence has established the physiological importance of trace minerals in the human body. For example, Iron is required for the transport of oxygen needed for cellular respiration. Copper is used to create red blood cells and to scavenge free radicals, substances linked to increased risk of cancer or heart disease. Zinc is needed to heal wounds and to ensure that proteins are formed properly to carry out their vital roles. Other metals like vanadium, strontium, arsenic, nickel, tin, aluminum, boron, arsenic and cadmium have unknown or inconclusive roles in human processes. READ FULL ARTICLE

What about reducing arsenic levels in cooked whole grain brown rice?
It is recommended that consumers wash their brown rice well in a colander before boiling, plus add extra water to the pot to help wash away the soluble arsenic.

What are the experts saying about Growing Naturals rice products?
A former FDA Supervisor and consultant to the California State Attorney General's Office and Prop 65 has tested our product to show it is below the food arsenic levels regulated by the UK, Australia and World health Organization (WHO). Click here for his professional opinion on why the Dartmouth study is flawed.


Sunwarrior Raw Vegan Protein is a brown rice based protein; however, Sunwarrior does not use brown rice syrup either as an ingredient or as a sweetener. Sunwarrior Raw Vegan Protein is regularly tested for arsenic levels and is well below the allowable limit for arsenic.

During the fermentation process of the brown rice, the sugars and carbs are extracted - this is brown rice syrup. The 80% protein is what is left after the brown rice syrup is extracted. There is absolutely no brown rice syrup in our protein. As far as testing for Arsenic, our protein is tested for heavy metals by an independent lab. Our protein falls well below the allowable limit of 10 micrograms. It's true that the arsenic in brown rice syrup comes from the brown rice itself, but Sunwarrior Raw Vegan Protein is well below the allowable limit for arsenic according to both Prop 65 and the FDA.

What is Prop 65?

California Proposition 65
California law contains what is known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act also referred to as Proposition 65 (Prop 65). Prop 65 requires the State of California to publish and maintain a list of chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. The list has continually expanded since the inception of Prop 65 and it currently contains over 900 substances. The most recent list and other Prop 65 information are available on California's web site: http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65.html.

Prop 65 requires products sold in California to bear warnings about potential exposure to any of the substances listed by the state of California. Prop 65's warning provision is required for any product (food or non-food) that exposes an individual in California to any detectable amount of a listed substance "known to the state" to cause cancer and/or reproductive harm. It is important to note Prop 65 does not ban any products; it simply requires warnings. Legal proceedings to enforce Prop 65 against manufacturers may be instituted by the State of California, private attorneys, or private citizens.

What kinds of food are affected?
Practically all foods contain certain levels of one or more of the substances recognized by the State of California. In many cases, the exposure levels established by Prop 65 are less than what occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, and even drinking water. The Proposition 65 exposure standards are so strict that certain natural foods such as yams, turnips, apples, tomatoes, artichokes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, and corn provide exposures in excess of Prop 65 limits. (However, food producers have not been required to provide Prop 65 notices.) For example, natural carrots contain approximately 12.80 micrograms of arsenic in a one cup serving which is an exposure that exceeds Prop 65 levels. Also, green beans contain 28.75 micrograms of lead in a one cup serving, which is an exposure of approximately 50 times the allowed Prop 65 levels.

What about Sunwarrior Rice Protein and Ormus Supergreens?
Sunwarrior's research indicates that any presence of chemicals listed by the State of California in Sunwarrior Rice Protein and Ormus Supergreens occur as a result of the natural state of the ingredients in the products. Prop 65 states that no warning is required when the listed substance occurs naturally in a food product, and not as the result of "known human activity." However, the State of California has never issued clear guidelines on how this exception applies to the health supplement industry. It is generally understood that lead and other substances occur naturally in the environment and are found in trace amounts in naturally occurring ingredients, including those ingredients used to make dietary supplements. However, to claim this naturally occurring exception to Prop 65 (i.e.: to not post the labels on products) usually lands the claimant in an expensive, time consuming, and business destroying legal proceeding.

Does this apply to all naturally occurring substances?

The naturally occurring exception was tested when the California Attorney General filed a lawsuit against several canned tuna companies for failure to provide Prop 65 warnings regarding exposure to methylmercury in tuna. After a prolonged and expensive court battle, the tuna canners prevailed. The Appeals Court held that tuna companies are not required to post Prop 65 warnings because the exposure to methylmercury fell under the "naturally occurring allowance" exception. The appeals court concluded that there was substantial evidence that the methylmercury found in canned tuna occurs naturally and independent of human activity. The court held generally that when a naturally occurring substance appears in a product, such as in tuna fish, the Prop 65's warning requirement does not apply. It is Sunwarrior's belief that if tuna companies are not required to provide warnings regarding the existence of methylmercury in tuna, neither should health supplement companies be required to provide warnings over the existence of trace amounts of lead or arsenic that are naturally occurring in the natural supplement ingredients, such as, rice protein. However, California law has clearly adopted this position.

Should I be worried about eating Sunwarrior or other natural products?

Proteins, plants, and minerals all are well-known to contain substances that exceed those allowed exposures on the Prop 65 list. Naturally grown plants absorb metals and other trace chemicals from the soil in which they are grown. For example, Prop 65 sets a safe harbor limit of 0.5 mcg of lead per serving, but this limit is far below the amount of lead naturally found in many fruits and vegetables grown on clean, non-contaminated soils. In 2009 the State of California conducted its own food crop soil-lead-uptake analysis (Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 129:212-220), and California's experts found that the most commonly consumed vegetables (from 70 different locations), averaged nearly four times the Prop 65 lead limit per serving. When compared with the Prop 65 standards, each serving of potatoes, lettuce, wheat, carrots and many other vegetables would require a lead warning.

Remember that Prop 65 regulates exposures, not concentrations and not actual harm or injury. Natural proteins, for example, naturally have high levels of lead. Any process to remove the lead would destroy the protein. All Sunwarrior products fall within FDA suggested guidelines for any/all of the chemicals listed by Prop 65 and can be safely consumed.

Why does Sunwarrior put warnings on some of their labels?

Sunwarrior prefers to comply with the Prop 65 warning label requirements, as a business decision, in order to avoid expensive, time-consuming, and business destroying litigation over Prop 65 compliance. Sunwarrior Rice Protein and Ormus Supergreens are natural and Sunwarrior believes that any occurrences of chemicals listed by Prop 65 in its products should be exempted under the "naturally occurring allowance" exception. However, until this exception is more clearly delineated by the Courts and the State of California, Sunwarrior will comply with the notice requirements.