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Three Democrats to introduce arsenic limitation bill

Democratic Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Nita Lowey of New York announced they will introduce legislation today to require the Food and Drug Administration to limit the amount of arsenic permitted in rice and rice-based products.

Their bill followed the release this week of a Consumer Reports investigation of arsenic levels in rice and rice-containing products such as cereal, and urged consumers to limit rice consumption. Consumer Reports called on the Food and Drug Administration to set arsenic tolerance levels in those products and in juices, but the FDA has said that it is still completing its own research and sees no reason to urge the public to change its eating habits at this point.

“The idea that high levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen, are present in rice, cereal and other common, everyday foods is absolutely outrageous,” DeLauro said.

“The federal government has an obligation to every American family to ensure that the food they consume is safe and should not make them sick," she said. "This is not the first time we have been alerted to the dangers of arsenic, and quite simply we must do more to ensure that our food supply is safe. This bill is a step in that direction.”

“The recent Consumer Reports investigation finding of measurable amounts of arsenic in a range of rice products is cause for concern for consumers, and parents in particular,” said Pallone.

“The health risks associated with inorganic arsenic as a carcinogen are widely known and there absolutely should be a federal arsenic standard for rice products similar to those for bottled water,” he said.

“Ensuring the safety of our food supply is among the most important responsibilities of the federal government,” said Lowey. “It is inexcusable that no standards exist to keep arsenic, a known carcinogen, out of rice and rice-based products like cereal. This legislation will help protect families from this unacceptable risk.”

Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy division of Consumer Reports, said, “This bill would help ensure that we have standards in place to reduce arsenic in rice and rice products. Based on our findings, we strongly believe that the government needs to set these limits. We commend the sponsors of this legislation for standing up to help consumers.”

The R.I.C.E. Act (Reducing food-based Inorganic and organic Compounds Exposure Act) would require the FDA to set a maximum permissible level of arsenic in rice and food containing rice. FDA has arsenic standards for bottled water, but nothing else.

In February, Pallone, DeLauro and Lowey introduced the Arsenic Prevention and Protection from Lead Exposure in Juice Act of 2012 or “APPLE Juice Act” which would require the FDA to establish standards for arsenic and lead in fruit juices. DeLauro said in a new release today that “a separate investigation revealed alarmingly high levels of arsenic and lead in apple and grape juice in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.”