Cooking rice in a coffee-brewer could erase arsenic: study

Cooking rice in a coffee-brewer could erase arsenic: study
PHOTO: The Straits Times

MIAMI - Arsenic in rice is a global health concern, but researchers in Northern Ireland have found a way to remove it by cooking rice the way coffee is brewed, a study said Wednesday.

A percolator that cooks rice by passing hot water through it, rather than boiling it in a pot, was able to remove 85 per cent of the grains' cancer-causing inorganic arsenic, said the study in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

"This is a very significant breakthrough as this offers an immediate solution to decreasing inorganic arsenic in the diet," said Andy Meharg, professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at Queen's University in Belfast's Institute for Global Food Security.

"We discovered that by using percolating technology, where cooking water is continually passed through rice in a constant flow, we could maximise removal of arsenic," he said.

Chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic has been linked to developmental problems, heart disease, diabetes, nervous system damage, lung and bladder cancers.

Rice is a staple for many cultures worldwide, and is often fed to babies in the form of rice cereal.

Since rice is grown under flooded conditions, it absorbs inorganic arsenic from soil minerals.

Rice typically contains 10 times more inorganic arsenic than other foods, and the European Food Standards Authority has warned that people who eat a lot of rice, are exposed to worrying concentrations.

Queen's is seeking a patent for its rice cooking percolation system, "which means consumers could soon have this technology in their own kitchen," a statement from the university said.

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