Rice products in the UK do not pose a threat to consumers, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said, following a US study that found high levels of lead in US rice imports.
The US study, led by academics at Monmouth University in New Jersey, found that batches of rice imports from India, Thailand, China, Taiwan, Italy and Bhutan contained more than acceptable levels of lead, which could be damaging to human health. It said this created a risk of lead exposure up to 60 times higher than the levels accepted as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA said it was reviewing the findings of the study.
However the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) said that the data and levels quoted in the US study were much higher than those detected in the EU. The EU sets guidelines for the maximum limits on the level of lead that is allowed in different food groups, including rice, a spokesman said.
“We are not aware of any evidence or research which suggests that the levels of lead generally in rice are a concern”
“The FSA does monitor rice, to make sure the levels of lead are within the limits set by the EU. This monitoring is via routine sampling at ports and by local authorities across the UK. We are not aware of any evidence or research which suggests that the levels of lead generally in rice are a concern.
“The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a recent report looking at the levels of lead in food. It found that rice is a minor contributor when it comes to the average person’s dietary exposure to lead.
“We would welcome the opportunity to review the American research. However, the data and levels quoted are much higher than those we have detected here in the EU.”
UK retailers contacted by The Grocer said that their products complied with rigorous EU guidelines and routine testing of their products had not raised any concerns. They also said tests carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on rice sold in Europe had not identified unacceptable levels of lead.
“We carry out testing across our supply chain and we are satisfied that this issue does not affect us,” said a spokesman for Premier Foods, parent company of Batchelors Savoury Rice.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s added: “All our rice is regularly tested by independent third parties and these tests have not raised any concerns.”
Lead poisoning is associated with anaemia, nerve and kidney damage.