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Arborio rice. Stock photo from Pixabay

Is Brussels preparing to ‘poison’ rice?

Brussels proposes halving the cadmium limits in rice, with the risk of increasing the concentration of arsenic.

Published: January 16, 2020, 8:34 am


    After the “Asian” threat to Italian rice, there is a new alarm being sounded for rice growers and consumers, both local and European.

    Because according to the new provisions of the European Commission, the EU has committed itself to halving the cadmium limit present in rice. However, this measure may increase the risk of augmenting the concentration of arsenic in the herbaceous plant itself.

    Cadmium is a chemical element with a metallic appearance, with white, blue and silvery reflections. It is found in zinc minerals, and used for rechargeable batteries and is toxic. For this reason it is considered to be a food contaminant, even if it is less dangerous than arsenic which is a known poison, as well as a substance used to create herbicides and insecticides.

    The Brussels proposal includes lowering the limits of cadmium in food, including rice. To do this, Brussels submitted a project that talks about 0,10 mg/kg for rice to stakeholders. This is a result of the evaluation of a working group on industrial and environmental contaminants that aims to modify the European Regulation number 488 of 2014 concerning the maximum cadmium levels in food products.

    In halving the current tolerated limit of cadmium in rice, however, there is a risk that the rice labelled “Made in Italy”, which is already threatened by an arborio from Myanmar, could see the return of European duties on the herbaceous plant itself .

    The MEP of the League party, Gianna Gancia presented a question to the attention of the European Commission to protest against the choice: “The halving of the cadmium limit would force our producers to activate strategies such as increasing the period of submergence of rice fields in the various production phases. With this proposed modification, which is being evaluated by the European Commission, it is estimated that with the modification of this parameter, 11 percent of the national rice production would be out of the norm for the non-decrease in cadmium.”

    But there is more, given that the proposal would cause a negative effect of increased arsenic, which is also carcinogenic to humans and highly poisonous.

    The member in the EU of the League, therefore, argues that precisely for this reason “it would be more appropriate, at this stage, to keep the 0,2 mg/kg limit unchanged, allowing rice farmers to find the right agronomic strategy in water management to allow a reduction of cadmium and, at the same time, avoid arsenic increases outside the regulatory limits”.

    Italy’s famous short-grain rice, is named after the town of Arborio, in the Po Valley, which is situated in the main growing region of Doron. Arborio is also grown in Arkansas, California, and Missouri in the United States. When cooked, the rounded grains are firm, and creamy and chewy compared to other rices, due to their higher amylopectin starch content.

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