Recently I watched a very thought provoking documentary by Dispatches on Channel 4 here in the UK which was all about arsenic in rice and rice products (link to U.S. FDA page). As I have a keen interest in ion analysis, I was intrigued to see if the science is consistent with the media story, so took on some research of my own.
The documentary made the point that it is important to determine the levels of inorganic arsenic species (link to a downloadable PDF of one of our application notes on this topic) as it’s the inorganic arsenic that are carcinogenic. More alarmingly it highlighted, and was confirmed by a spokesperson from the Food Standards Agency, that there are no official regulations for arsenic in food whereas there are regulations for arsenic in drinking water in the UK. They say on their website that they are contributing to discussions in Europe to set limits for inorganic arsenic and are expected to apply them from mid-next year.
As I was keen to find out the latest news on regulations, I found a very recent Q & A update from the U.S. FDA and also, a recent webinar on the development of a method for arsenic speciation (link to on-demand webinar) that included a discussion on how the AOAC International is dealing with the subject of arsenic in our food and beverages.
A very quick internet search brought up the same story by newspapers and TV shows here in the UK and the U.S. and, more importantly for me, some scientific research which I found extremely interesting and will share with you.
I found that one of our customers, Professor Andy Meharg (link to profile on Univ page) from Queens University Belfast who also appeared in the TV documentary has just published a great journal paper, titled, Urinary excretion of arsenic following rice consumption, (link to paper on ScienceDirect) on the topic and I found he had also wrote his own superb blog post, titled, High levels of cancer-causing arsenic in rice so why isn’t it regulated in our food?, (link to post) just this month that is very interesting and well worth a read.
I received an invite last week to what looks like a fantastic webinar on this very topic, titled, ICP-MS for Arsenic Speciation, (link to the registration page of the webinar), by Professor Meharg on the 5th December 2014. The synopsis says he will talk on the latest methods on arsenic speciation by hyphenated techniques, avoiding pitfalls with High Performance Liquid Chromatography ICP-MS configurations and how using ion chromatography with ICP-MS detection can avoid them. (By the way, if you are reading this post after the date of the webinar, you can still watch a recorded version of the webinar by clicking on the link above and filling out the registration form.) If I have whetted your appetite and you can’t wait, here is a great 3-minute overview video from Dr Meharg that was hosted by Select Science I watched earlier in the year: Quantification of Inorganic Arsenic in Rice.
I find this story fascinating as rice is such a staple food for so many people worldwide and will certainly keep abreast of the story and post any updates for you to follow.
Like what you are learning?
Is arsenic or any other metal speciation of interest to your laboratory? If so I would like to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Do check out our Food Community which is a wonderful resource that is totally dedicated to the latest in our food and beverage solutions and features the latest on-demand webinars, videos, application notes, and more.
Paul Dewsbury is a Global Marketing Manager for Food and Beverage in the Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry Division at Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. Paul has over 20 years’ experience in analytical chemistry with a specialty in Ion Chromatography and its applications both as a customer through to Sales and Technical Support for Dionex UK and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Paul has a strong customer focus and now applies the experiences he has gained in helping our customers find solutions to their needs and challenges in the Food and Beverage sector. Paul received his BSc (Hons) Degree in Applied Chemistry at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK.