Influencing food regulation with arsenic testing


Description of impact

Led by Professor Jörg Feldmann, a team from the University of Aberdeen developed methodologies for measuring the levels of inorganic arsenic in rice. After implementing tests on products worldwide, the team discovered that levels were significantly higher in the USA than in countries such as Bangladesh, due to the herbicides used by the USA in fields where rice is grown. But although the team’s findings attracted significant attention from food groups and federations, it was not until China implemented a maximum permissible level for the first time, and introduced a new import regulation, that major food authorities began to act. Based on China’s new benchmark, the research team demonstrated that many European products, including baby rice, did not pass the new regulatory limit.

Project summary and aims

Many people are surprised to discover that the chemical element arsenic can be found in a number of food types. It is especially common in rice, which is one of the world’s most important grains and often a staple of family diets. But although arsenic is a natural component of the earth, it is also a poison that exists in several forms. Inorganic arsenic, a highly toxic form that’s found in water, is a class 1 carcinogen and can cause cancer through long-term exposure.

Outcomes to Date / Future Developments

Impact statusImpact Completed (Open)
Impact date20052018


  • Environment and biodiversity