By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Rice industry officials say they invite a federal investigation into reports of high levels of lead in imported rice.
Researchers at Monmouth University reported last week they found some imported rice contained lead levels that could pose health risks.
The risks are particularly high for infants and children, who are especially sensitive to lead's effects, and adults of Asian heritage who consume large amounts of rice, the researchers warned.
The Arlington, Va.-based USA Rice Federation responded with a call for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate levels of lead in imported rice and moved to reassure consumers that the study did not indict American-grown rice.
Tests by the FDA have confirmed that lead levels in U.S.-grown rice are not a concern, USA Rice noted in a news release. The FDA's Total Diet Study shows the level of detection for lead in American rice at 0.007 mg/kg, which equals 7 parts per billion, as opposed to up to 12 parts per billion cited in the university study.
The research by Monmouth University chemistry professor Tsanagurayi Tongesayi and his students was presented at the 245th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society. The researchers examined rice imported from Asia, Europe and South America.
While most of the rice consumed in the United States is grown domestically, imports of rice and rice flour have increased by more than 200 percent since 1999, the scientists noted.
The top 5 sources of U.S. rice imports in 2012 were Thailand, India, Vietnam, Pakistan and Brazil, according to USA Rice.