High levels of inorganic arsenic were found in 13 out of 45 rice samples obtained in Hong Kong and Lo Wu. Photo: iStockphoto

A study into heavy metal content in rice sold in Hong Kong and the New Territories has revealed samples with potential cancer risks and negative impacts on children’s IQ.

Nearly a third of samples – both foreign and local – tested by the Hong Kong Organic Resource Center were found to have excessive inorganic arsenic content, which could damage a child’s intelligence and increase the risk of cancer.

The center collected 45 samples of rice from wet markets, supermarkets and wholesalers in Hong Kong and Lo Wu in the New Territories near mainland China between November last year to January this year to test the level of eight types of heavy metals.

All samples passed the local’s food safety center limit of 1,100 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per kilogram. But 13 samples – 12 from local markets and one from Lo Wu – exceeded the infant and child intake standards in the United States and European Union.

The highest inorganic arsenic content was found in a sample of Select Organic Jasmine Rice imported from Thailand, which was recorded at 160 micrograms per kilogram.

Two other rice samples were ‘Duck-tip rice organic white rice’ from Taiwan and the ‘Nishiki Premium Grade Rice – Specially Selected’ from the United States.

The World Health Organization says a 60-kilogram adult should not have more than 180 micrograms of inorganic arsenic a day.

Children aged from 8-12 years and weighing 15 kilograms could easily surpass the daily intake limit by 45 micrograms if they eat 2.8 bowls of rice a day, the center warned.

Center director Professor Jonathan Wong Woon-chung said excessive intake could damage a person’s central nervous system. It would also slow down the development of a child’s intelligence and increase the risk of cancer, Ta Kung Pao reported.

Wong advised people to soak rice in water for at least five minutes before cooking to reduce the level of inorganic arsenic.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Park’nshop said they would temporarily remove the products named from their shelves, Sing Tao Daily reported.

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