Local rice farmers, AgCenter officials react to arsenic report - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Local rice farmers, AgCenter officials react to arsenic report


Rice -- the number one export from Louisiana for 2012. With close to 495,000 acres of rice field across the state, Louisiana is a big contributor to the nation's rice supply. 

But now with a recent Consumer Reports release, certain levels of arsenic were found in much of the nation's homegrown white rice.

"Actually, it bothers me, you know, because nobody wants to eat arsenic," said David Habetz, a Beauregard Parish rice farmer.

Habetz is not concerned about the arsenic in rice because he knows the rice he produces is safe.

No arsenical pesticides are used when growing rice in the United States, according to the USA Rice Federation. But Habetz is concerned about other factors that follow the report.

"I'm just worried about scaring the consumers and it hurting the market for the farmers, but we certainly don't want any arsenic in our rice of any type level, but FDA is saying that it's still okay to eat rice with the levels they are finding," he said.

Habetz's son, Adam, is also a rice farmer and president of the Calcasieu Cameron Rice Growers Association. Adam said they haven't had any problems before with they way they produce rice.

"We haven't really changed anything. I don't see why it should have gotten any worse. It should be better," Adam said.

The USA Rice Federation released a statement about the report on Wednesday that arsenic has always been in the food supply and is in many foods that are consumed daily. 

"We understand that 'arsenic' is an alarming word, but we believe it is important for consumers to know that arsenic is a naturally occurring element in our air, water, rocks and soil," according to the statement.

And both farmers agree consumers should continue to consume homegrown rice because there's not much to worry about.

Beauregard Parish County Agent Keith Hawkins agrees.

"The dose makes the poison. Low levels of any heavy metal or arsenic, it's negligible. It's everywhere. Our bodies deal with it, so I think it's okay," Hawkins said.

But rice farmers are still concerned about the negative impact the reports may have on the market.

"If this knocks the price down any further, I really think it's going to hurt the American farmer," Habetz said. 

Hawkins said consumers should continue to maintain a healthy diet and continue eating rice. He said rice is one of the largest crops to come out of South Louisiana and this report has the potential to hurt rice farmers.

For more information on arsenic and rice, click here. 

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.


The following is a news release from Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain regarding the arsenic in rice report.

Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, says a recent Consumer Reports study in which arsenic was detected in rice is a matter being closely monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency.

Commissioner Strain says "We are in contact with these government entities as they conduct their own research on arsenic levels in rice. Rice is nutritious and for me, personally, it will continue to be a part of my diet."

The Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency monitor the levels of arsenic in food. They say arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is present in air, water, rocks and soil.  

The Food and Drug Administration is not recommending that consumers modify their consumption of rice and rice products. "While the presence of arsenic in rice sounds alarming, it is not new," Strain said. "I encourage consumers to continue eating a well balanced diet," added Strain.

The Food and Drug Administration has monitored arsenic levels for more than 20 years and is in the process of collecting and analyzing about 1,000 samples. Once completed, the Food and Drug Administration will determine whether or not to issue additional recommendations.

There are about 1,000 rice producers that grow approximately 400,000 acres of rice in Louisiana. Rice is a $475 million industry in the state. The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks Louisiana third in rice production.

For more information, go to www.fda.gov.

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