Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, have discovered a simple technique that effectively reduces the level of potentially carcinogenic inorganic arsenic present in cooked rice.
Inorganic arsenic levels in uncooked rice are much higher than in other food commodities as a consequence of how the crop is cultivated in flooded fields. Arsenic contamination has been identified as a potential health risk for people whose diet contains a lot of rice, especially infants and young children. It is associated with lung and bladder cancers, as well as other health problems.
It is known that cooking rice in larger volumes of water removes more of the arsenic, suggesting that it leaches out of the grains. The Queen’s University researchers therefore investigated two methods of cooking using percolation. The first method involved recycling the cooking water by condensing steam and passing the distilled hot water through the grain in the laboratory, while the second cooked the rice with tap water in an off-the-shelf coffee percolator in a domestic setting.
Both methods were found to work equally well, removing up to 85% of the arsenic in various types of rice, including wholegrain. According to study leader Professor Andrew Meharg, “This is a very significant breakthrough as this offers an immediate solution to decreasing inorganic arsenic in the diet.”
The study findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE and can be found in full here.