Arsenic is an element in the Earth’s crust, and is present in water, air, and soil. It exists in two forms, with the inorganic form considered to be the more toxic. The FDA has been monitoring the levels of arsenic in foods for decades and in 2011, after new methods to differentiate the forms of arsenic became available, the agency expanded its testing to help better understand and manage possible arsenic-related risks associated with food consumption in the United States.
Rice has higher levels of inorganic arsenic than other foods, in part because as rice plants grow, the plant and grain tend to absorb arsenic more readily than other food crops. In April 2016, the FDA proposed an action level, or limit, of 100 parts per billion (ppb) for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal. This level, which is based on the FDA’s assessment of a large body of scientific information, seeks to reduce infant exposure to inorganic arsenic. The agency also has developed advice on rice consumption for pregnant women and the caregivers of infants.