European Union lowers the Allowed Concentration of Inorganic Arsenic in White Rice and New Limits for Arsenic in many Everyday Food Items

European Union has set new limits on the concentration of arsenic in many of the food products. This step is in the direction of delivering the objectives of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan  to limit or remove the carcinogenic risks associated to chemicals in food.

The decision to set new limits is based on a 2021 scientific report from EFSA, comes after Member States were called upon to monitor the presence of arsenic in foods. The existing maximum levels for arsenic in food products were established in 2015 based on an EFSA opinion that stated that inorganic arsenic may cause cancer of the skin, bladder, and lungs. 

Arsenic is a widely found contaminant which occurs both naturally and as a result of human activity. The inorganic forms of arsenic are more toxic as compared to the organic arsenic.

In food, particularly grain-based processed products such as wheat bread, rice, milk and dairy products, and drinking water are the main sources of arsenic exposure for the general population in Europe.

Other food groups that are important contributors to the daily dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic in the general European population were food for special dietary uses, bottled water, coffee and beer, rice grains and rice based products, fish and vegetables (especially algae).

Arsenic Danger

The main bad effects reported to be associated with long term ingestion of inorganic arsenic in humans are:

Skin lesions,


Developmental toxicity,


Cardiovascular diseases,

Abnormal glucose metabolism, and


There is emerging evidence of negative impacts on foetal and infant development, particularly reduced birth weight.

A Step Forward

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “We are today taking additional measures to further reduce the exposure risk of a carcinogenic contaminant from our food chain. Our citizens want the reassurance that the food they eat is safe, and these new rules are yet another proof that food safety standards in the EU remain the highest in the world.”

This measure will lower the allowed concentration of inorganic arsenic in white rice, while it also sets new limits for arsenic in many everyday rice-based food items, infant formula, baby foods, fruit juices and salt.

According to the regulation, certain foodstuffs covered by this Regulation have a long shelf life, foodstuffs that were lawfully placed on the market before the date of application of this Regulation should be allowed to remain on the market.

The measures provided in the Regulation are in accordance with the opinion of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed of the European Commission.

FoodstuffsMaximum levels (mg/kg wet weight)
Arsenic (inorganic arsenic for 3.5.1 to 3.5.4 and total arsenic for 3.5.5)
Cereals and cereal based products
Non-parboiled milled rice (polished or white rice)0,15
2 Parboiled and husked rice0,25
Rice flour0,25
Rice waffles, rice wafers, rice crackers, rice cakes, rice flakes and popped breakfast rice0,30
Rice destined for the production of food for infants and young children0,10
Non-alcoholic rice-based drinks0,030
Infant formulae , follow-on formulae , foods for special medical purposes intended for infants and young children  and young child formulae .
-marketed as powder0,020
-marketed as liquid0,010
Baby foods0,020
Fruit juices, concentrated fruit juices as reconstituted and fruit nectars0,020
Source: Official Journal of the European Union

For detailed regulation, read here.