FoodFacts.com has often been quite impressed by the distinct differences between the majority of gluten-free food products and their gluten-containing counterparts. Nutritional values appear to be much better and ingredient lists can be far superior. While gluten-free foods have been developed specifically for consumers with gluten sensitivities and celiac disease, we know that many have embraced these food products for other perceived health reasons. They may simply be reading the ingredient lists and realizing that there are gluten-free foods that are simply better products. We read something today, though, that might be of concern to all gluten-free food consumers.
Some gluten free foods have been found to boast worrying concentrations of arsenic, as revealed by the analyses of flour, cakes, bread, pasta and other foods made with rice.
With demand up, so is supply, and more gluten-free rice-based products are hitting the shelves. This is no doubt a boon for celiac disease sufferers, who now have a large variety of meal options. However, a new study published in the journal Food Additives & Contaminants says it’s also dangerous, as more of these products have been found to contain worrying levels of arsenic, a toxic and carcinogenic substance.
Arsenic is found naturally in the Earth’s crust, and it is often absorbed with water by rice plants.
These levels are low enough where they are not a threat to standard consumers, but study co-author Ángel Carbonell says that people who exclusively eat gluten-free products – namely celiac sufferers – might be slowly poisoning themselves.
“These figures show that we cannot exclude a risk to the health of people who consume these kinds of products,” Carbonell said in a statement.
He and his colleagues argue that current arsenic limits set by the US and European Union do not accommodate for celiac disease sufferers, as current limits assume the average citizen is eating less rice-product than these niche consumers.
“What is needed is for health agencies to legislate to limit the levels of arsenic that cannot be exceeded in rice-based foods intended for consumers who suffer from celiac disease,” Carbonell said.
The authors also call for clearer labeling, as the quality and even location of rice can affect its arsenic content.
While this information is especially important for those who are exclusively consuming gluten-free products due to sensitivities or celiac disease, it’s important for any consumer who has decided to embrace a gluten-free lifestyle. While these products can be substantially better in terms of nutrition facts and ingredients, we do think that the presence of a dangerous ingredient that will not appear on any list worth noting.