This Cooking Method Helps Rid Rice of Arsenic

Fire up your coffeemaker, scientists say
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2015 9:31 AM CDT
This Cooking Method Helps Rid Rice of Arsenic
Cooking rice in a coffeemaker could significantly cut down on the staple's arsenic levels.   (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

High levels of arsenic in rice shouldn't scare you away, scientists say, because they've found a way to flush most of the toxin, the journal Nature notes. Researchers for the study in Plos One acquired 41 rice samples from at least a dozen countries and dumped them into either a lab-built contraption that condensed steam and produced fresh, distilled hot water or into a regular old coffee percolator with a filter, where the hot water dripped onto the uncooked rice (and then back out of the rice). The results: The coffee percolator-cooked rice got rid of half its arsenic, while the steam device got rid of up to 85% in some cases, depending on whether white rice or whole-grain rice was used, per the study. These findings could affect countries that consume lots of rice and even infants who eat rice-based cereals, as high arsenic levels in food have been tied to cancer.

The way rice is produced contributes to why the product can have up to 10 times the arsenic levels of other foods: The water present in the flooded paddies where rice is grown can shake up inorganic arsenic found in the soil and infiltrate the plants, UPI reports. The study's leader notes this technique is simply a short-term fix for people who don't want to wait for longer-term solutions like revamping rice-growing processes and cultivating strains that contain low levels of arsenic, per Nature. He also doesn't expect everyone to start firing up their coffee machines whenever they want to make jambalaya—he's really hoping this method may lead to better rice-cookers down the road. "We just took something that's in everybody's kitchen and applied it to show a principle," he tells the journal. (Arsenic has been found in water, apple juice, and even beer.)

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