University of Arkansas Investigates Arsenic in State Rice

After Consumer Reports said in September that it had found “worrisome” levels of arsenic in rice, including rice grown in Arkansas, the University of Arkansas System went to work.

Charles Wilson, director of the Rice Research & Extension Center for the University of Arkansas, said last week that the UA’s scientists had just started their investigation and that he hoped to have preliminary data within the next year or so.

Nathan Slaton, professor of soil fertility and director of soil testing at the UA’s Division of Agriculture, demurred that he wasn’t an expert on arsenic. However, he said, “the situation that we are looking at in rice is obviously a concern to the industry just like any other negative information that comes out about a product. Whether it’s absolutely true or a misconception, obviously from a marketing standpoint there’s always concern.”

He said the UA was in an “information-gathering mode,” studying the scientific literature regarding rice and arsenic.

“There’s been research reported in the literature that definitely shows that poultry litter can have arsenic in it,” Slaton said. “And there’s also literature out there that suggests that poultry litter has very little arsenic.”