‘Arsenic’ rice from the U.S. deemed safe

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‘Arsenic’ rice from the U.S. deemed safe

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said yesterday it will resume sales of U.S. rice that were halted last month after a carcinogen was detected.

Distribution of the rice was suspended on Sept. 21 after U.S. Consumer Report reported that arsenic, a chemical element that is known to cause lung cancer, was found one day earlier.

Korea has imported 20,000 tons of U.S. rice this year and has distributed 4,000 tons to the market. The government originally planned to import 90,000 tons this year.

Major consumers are low-income households and construction workers. According to an official at the agriculture ministry, it is mostly distributed to canteens at construction sites and mom-and-pop stores in small cities.

There is a high possibility some of the rice containing the chemical was already consumed.

“Experts say the chemical element causes problems only when a person keeps consuming it for a long period of time,” said Cho Kyung-kyu, an official at the ministry.

Cho said minute traces of the chemical exist naturally in the air, water and soil.

The Rural Development Administration found that 0.064 to 0.132 milligrams of the chemical element per kilogram was found in the imported rice.

The ministry sent the result to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to find out just how toxic the substance is. The FDA concluded it is not harmful to human health.

The amount of arsenic found in the U.S. rice is smaller than China’s standard for the chemical, or 0.15 milligrams per kilogram, the FDA said.

By Song Su-hyun [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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