US rice imports ’contain harmful levels of lead’
Some samples exceeded the "provisional total tolerable intake" (PTTI) set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by a factor of 120.
The report at the American Chemical Society Meeting adds to the already well-known issue of arsenic in rice.
The researchers found the highest levels of lead in rice from China and Taiwan
The FDA told the BBC it would review the research.
Lead is known to be harmful to many organs and the central nervous system.
It is a particular risk for young children, who suffer significant developmental problems if exposed to elevated lead levels.
Because rice is grown in heavily irrigated conditions, it is more susceptible than other staple crops to environmental pollutants in irrigation water.
Recent studies have highlighted the presence of arsenic in rice - prompting consumption advice from the UK’s Food Standards Agency and more recently from the FDA.
However, other heavy metals represent a risk as well.
Dr Tsanangurayi Tongesayi of Monmouth University in New Jersey, US, and his team have tested a number of imported brands of rice bought from local shops.
The US imports about 7% of its rice, and the team sampled packaged rice from Bhutan, Italy, China, Taiwan, India, Israel, the Czech Republic and Thailand - which accounts for 65% of US imports.
The team measured the lead levels in each country-category and calculated the lead intake on the basis of daily consumption. The results will be published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health (Part B).
"When we compared them, we realised that the daily exposure levels are much higher than those PTTIs," said Dr Tongesayi.
"According to the FDA, they have to be more than 10 times the PTTI levels (to cause a health concern), and our values were two to 12 times higher than those 10 times," he told BBC News.
"So we can only conclude that they can potentially cause harmful effects."
Read the full article at: bbc.co.uk