How to remove arsenic from rice when cooking: Experts reveal the best way to filter out the natural toxin without losing mineral nutrients

  • Arsenic is a Group 1 carcinogen which can be fatal to humans in high doses  
  • The toxin is water soluble and soaks into the plant as it grows in paddies 
  • University of Sheffield researchers have come up with a method to best cook rice in order to get rid of arsenic  

Rice contains naturally high levels of arsenic, a toxin which can be fatal to humans, and experts have revealed the best way to remove it from the crop during cooking.  

Boiling fresh water before putting in the rice and then draining the water just five minute later gets rid of most of the arsenic. 

People should then finish cooking the rice by adding fresh water, turning the heat down and putting a lid on the saucepan.

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How to cook arsenic-free rice: 1) boiling fresh water 2) put rice into saucepan 3) drain off the water just five minute later 4) finish cooking the rice by adding fresh water and turning the heat down and putting a lid on the saucepan

Rice contains naturally high levels of arsenic, a toxin which can be fatal to humans, and experts have revealed the best way to rid it from the crop during cooking.

University of Sheffield researchers discovered this parboiling method was the most effective way of slashing arsenic levels in the dish. 

Their study published today in Science of the Total Environment shows that this method removes over 50 per cent of the naturally occurring arsenic in brown rice. 

For white rice this figure jumps up to 74 per cent. 

Half of the rice varieties sold in the UK have arsenic levels that exceed the safe limits for infants and children, a damning study reveals.

A total of 28 out of 55 varieties included in a study by the University of Sheffield breached the 0.1mg per kg limit laid out by the EU, to which the UK adheres.

Among the offending varieties are brown and organic rice, widely believed to be healthier than the alternatives.

The researchers say caution should be used when feeding rice to children, and parents should feed their infants no more than 20g a day of these 28 varieties. 

However, while removing the harmful toxin from the rice, the method keeps hold of all the nutrients the crop possesses.

Dr Manoj Menon, co-author of the study, says: ‘For rice consumers, this is excellent news. 

‘There are genuine concerns amongst the population about eating rice due to arsenic. 

‘Our newly developed method, PBA, is easy and home-friendly so that everyone can use it. 

‘We don’t know the amount of arsenic in each packet rice we buy; even though brown rice is nutritionally superior to white rice as our data shows, it contains more arsenic than white rice. 

‘We highly recommend this method while preparing rice for infants and children as they are highly vulnerable to arsenic exposure risks.’

The toxic chemical gathers naturally in the crop and has been linked to illness, dietary-related cancers and liver disease. In serious cases, it can result in death.

Arsenic is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and gets into plants because it is water soluble.

Rice, which is often grown in rice paddies, soaks up ten times more arsenic from the soil than other cereals. 

It is stored mostly in the outer casing of rice, which is what gives brown variants a higher concentration than white. 

The same researchers have previously found half of the rice varieties sold in the UK have arsenic levels that exceed the safe limits for infants and children.

A total of 28 out of 55 varieties included in a study by the University of Sheffield breached the 0.1mg per kg limit laid out by the EU, to which the UK adheres.

Among the offending varieties are brown and organic rice, widely believed to be healthier than the alternatives.  

Arsenic gets into rice as it is water soluble and soaks into the crop 

Rice can contain small amounts of arsenic, which in large doses is a toxin linked to multiple health conditions and dietary-related cancers.

Arsenic occurs naturally in the soil, though its concentration is higher in areas that have historically used arsenic-based herbicides or where irrigation water contains arsenic.

When farmers grow crops like rice under flooded conditions, arsenic is drawn out of the soil and into the water.

A rice plant is like a big tube or a straw as it draws water up from its roots to its leaves.

Rice naturally takes up arsenic because the arsenic mimics other molecules that these plants preferentially draw out of the soil.

Arsenic is a toxin for rice plants too, and they have mechanisms to protect themselves against higher levels of it. One method includes turning on a protein that sequesters arsenic in specific cells and tissues of plant.

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