Testing of arsenic in various products determines no health risk to consumers

November 18, 2013, Ottawa: As part of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) routine testing of various food products, a survey released today found that all samples of rice and rice products, breakfast and infant cereals, fruit products, bottled waters and seaweed products analyzed for arsenic were safe for consumption.

The CFIA tested a total of 1,071 food samples of domestic and imported origins. These included 280 rice and rice products, 355 breakfast and infant cereals, 251 fruit products, 95 bottled waters and 90 seaweed products. All were analyzed to determine the total arsenic content and the levels of various organic and inorganic species present.

The 2010-2011 study found that most of the products (1,034 of 1,071 samples, or 96.5%) contained detectable levels of total arsenic. However, this was not unexpected because arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in trace amounts in rock, soil, water and air. The presence of arsenic in food and water is generally considered to be normal accumulation from the environment, and arsenic levels in food are usually low.

Currently, the established arsenic tolerance in fruit juice, fruit nectar beverages and ready-to-serve and water in sealed containers other than spring or mineral water is 0.1 ppm. This level is under review by Health Canada.

When elevated levels of arsenic are detected, Health Canada may conduct an assessment to determine if the specific level poses a health risk based on the level, the expected frequency of exposure and the contribution to overall diet. These factors help the CFIA determine whether further action is needed, up to and including product seizure and/or recall.

For this survey, samples with levels in excess of established guidelines were assessed and none were expected to pose a health concern to consumers. There were no recalls.

Further information on this survey is available on the CFIA website.

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Canadian Food Inspection Agency
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