QUB develops solution to Bangladesh toxic rice problem

  • A team of researchers at Queen's University Belfast has published new research on cheap methods for making rice safer Bangladesh.

    Food safety science has come a long way in the past ten years, with new food processing techniques now allowing us to store food for longer and reduce levels of any dangerous contaminants. Rice is particularly problematic as a grain because it tends to absorb more inorganic arsenic from its environment, and that can have health effects in countries that use rice as a staple food.

    Small amounts of inorganic arsenic are present in all of our diets and are managed by food standards agencies to ensure levels are kept in a safe range. Higher levels have been shown to increase the risk of illness and cancer, and this can be a problem for places like Bangladesh where the average person eats about a pound of rice per day.

    A research team led by Professor Andrew Meharg from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University decided to see if they could reduce the levels of arsenic in rice by changing the processing methods typically used at small-scale processing plants in Bangladesh. They've come up with a cheap and effective method that seems to do the trick, and has the added benefit of increasing the calcium content of the rice.

    The team tested a variety of methods and discovered that removing the husk before the parboiling stage had a significant impact on the quality of the rice, reducing toxic arsenic levels by 25% compared to previous methods and increasing calcium content by 213%. The new method unfortunately led to 40% loss of potassion, which researchers say should be replaced by another means.

    The group tested their new method in 13 traditional parboiling plants throughout Bangladesh to ensure that worked in-situ, and verified their results with a combination of chromatography and spectrometry. The results were published today in ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

    Source: Queen's University Belfast press release

    About the author

    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

    Got a news-related tip you’d like to see covered on Sync NI? Email the editorial team for our consideration.

Share this story