Saturday, July 13, 2013

America's Test Kitchen Gluten-Free Bread Rankings

What is America's Test Kitchen? 

The best place to get recipes, bar none.

If I need non-specialty-GF recipes, like for mashed potatoes or roasted asparagus, this is where I get them. They really try every recipe and tweak it 'til it's perfect. Their recipes work, every time, perfectly, and they're better than all the other versions out there.

So which gluten-free bread won? 

Udi's. Did you think it would be anyone else?

Which ones were not recommended? 

Yeah, about like you might've thought.

Hey! Folks at America's Test Kitchen! 

Please, please, for the love of all that is holy, write a gluten-free cookbook, or else I'll have to take matters into my own hands!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Arsenic in Rice: What does this mean if you’re gluten-free

UPDATE: FDA Sets Arsenic Level for Apple Juice at 10 PPB (7/12/13)

(Source) Even apple juice has an upper limit for the concentration of arsenic allowed. Why not rice? Why doesn't the FDA make their results more clear and include brands of rice that they tested? See below for more details.

The FDA’s Study on Arsenic in Rice

In September of 2012, the US FDA released the results of a comprehensive study detailing the relative concentrations of arsenic in rice.

Say, WHAT?

Arsenic? In rice? Arsenic as in Arsenic and Old Lace like how the old ladies were killing people by putting arsenic in elderberry wine? Arsenic as in IT’S-RAT-POISON-AND-WILL-KILL-YOU-DEAD?

Yeah, arsenic. And it’s in rice. Quite a lot of it.

It seems that a lot of rice paddies are down south and are repurposed cotton fields. Back in the olden days, they used to sprinkle arsenic on the cotton crops to kill the cotton boll weevil because, you know, it’s not like anybody was going to eat the cotton.

Then cotton became less profitable. Rice became more profitable. And those arsenic-laced fields were then used to grow rice.

Now, the FDA says that they aren’t suggesting anyone change their diet, but people should “continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains – not only for only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food.” Source

Yeah, great. I heard somewhere that they’re recommending that people eat two servings or fewer of rice per week.

Per week? Heck, quite often I eat more than two servings of rice per day!

Fudge. And not the good kind.

To consider the problems with arsenic, the US EPA says, “Non-cancer effects can include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting; diarrhea; numbness in hands and feet; partial paralysis; and blindness. Arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate.”

The EPA continues, “EPA has set the arsenic standard for drinking water at .010 parts per million (10 parts per billion) to protect consumers served by public water systems from the effects of long-term, chronic exposure to arsenic.” Parts per billion is about the same as micrograms per liter of water (mcg/L). Since rice is more dense than water, the ppb to mcg/L conversion ratio is different.

10 parts per billion (ppb) is really, really tiny, and that’s what they set the upper limit at for drinking water. New Jersey set the limit lower, at 5 ppb, and that’s New Jersey. (Hello, all my peeps from Exit 8A!)

Generally, anything above 3 mcg is bad, and anything above 5mcg is really, really bad.

The FDA’s Data

Some of the highest concentrations were found in: Source
Product:                               Specific:                               Origin:   Mcg of As:
Rice (non-Basmati)          Wild Rice                              USA                       6.0
Rice (non-Basmati)          Extra Long Grain Rice      USA                       6.9
Rice (non-Basmati)          Extra Long Grain               USA                       6.8
Rice (non-Basmati)          Brown Rice Long Grain   Unknown            9.7
Rice (non-Basmati)          Long Grain Brown            USA                       9.1
Rice (non-Basmati)          Long Grain Brown Rice   Unknown            10.2
Rice (non-Basmati)          Brown Natural                   USA                       11.1
Basmati Rice                       Brown                                   USA                       9.0
Basmati Rice                       Basmati Brown Rice        USA                       9.0
Basmati Rice                       Organic Long Grain Brown USA                  6.6

From a cursory glance down the list, it appears that Long Grain is bad, Brown is bad, and Long Grain Brown is really bad. US-grown Brown Basmati is bad.

Better choices:
Product:                               Specific:                               Origin:   Mcg of As:
Basmati Rice                       Fully Cooked                      India      Undetectable/Trace
Basmati Rice                       Pure Basmati Rice            India      Undetectable/Trace
Basmati Rice                       Basmati Rice                       India                      1.8
Basmati Rice                       White Basmati                   USA                       1.2
Basmati Rice                       Organic Brown Basmati USA                       3.0
Basmati Rice                       California White Organic USA                      2.3
Basmati Rice                       Organic White Basmati  USA                       2.3

Some specialized GF products:
Product:                               Specific:                                                               Origin:   Mcg of As:
Rice Cereal          Rice Squares, Crispy Toasted GF                                       NR          1.9
Rice Cereal          Cream of Rice                                                                    NR          2.6
Rice Cereal          Whole Grain Puffed Rice, whole grain brown rice               NR       1.5
Rice Cereal          Crispy Rice Gluten Free Whole Grain Brown                      NR          2.9
Rice Cereal          Crispy Rice Gluten Free Whole Grain Brown                     NR          3.2
Rice Cereal          Organic Puffs                                                                     NR          1.5
Rice Cereal          Crispy Rice Gluten-free Whole Grain Brown Rice               NR          3.2
Rice Cereal          Organic Whole Grain Rice Cereal (infant)                           NR          3.2
Rice Cereal          Rice Chex Gluten-free                                                       NR          4.3
Rice Cereal          Organic Whole Grain Rice Cereal (infant)                           NR          2.9
Rice Cereal          Honey Rice Gluten Free                                                    NR          4.1
Rice Cereal          Organic Brown Rice Crisps                                              NR          7.1
Rice Cereal          Organic Brown Rice Crisps                                              NR          7.3
Rice Cereal          Gluten Free Cream of Brown Rice                                    NR          9.7
Rice Cakes           Brown Rice Organic Salt-free                                          NR          3.8
Rice Cakes           Caramel Corn Gluten-free                                               NR          3.1
Rice Cakes           Brown Salt Free                                                              NR          4.8
Rice Cakes           Butter Popped Corn                                                       NR          5.6
Rice Cakes           Lightly Salted                                                                  NR          4.6
Rice Cakes           Salt Free                                                                         NR          6.3
Rice Cakes           Salted Plain Gluten Free                                                  NR          7.6
Rice Cakes           Lightly Salted                                                                  NR          7.7
Rice Cakes           Sodium Free Plain Gluten Free                                        NR          8.2
Rice Cakes           Salt Free                                                                        NR          8.2
Rice Cakes           Salt Free                                                                         NR          8.0
Rice Cakes           Salt Free                                                                         NR          8.0

On the “good news” front, most of the “rice milks” tested came in at undetectable levels, though a few spiked up into the 3 mcg range, which still isn’t too bad.

Consumer Reports Study

Consumer Reports did their own study with their own lab tests. (Consumer Reports) Here are some highlights:

“We already know that high concentrations of arsenic in drinking water result in the highest known toxic substance disease risks from any environmental exposure,” says Allan Smith, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley. “So we should not be arguing to wait for years until we have results of epidemiologic studies at lower arsenic intake, such as from rice consumption, to take action.” His studies of arsenic in public water in Chile and Argentina helped show that it causes lung and bladder cancer and other diseases.”
“In brands for which we tested both a white and a brown rice, the average total and inorganic arsenic levels were higher in the brown rice than in the white rice of the same brand in all cases. Among all tested rice, the highest levels of inorganic arsenic per serving were found in some samples of Martin Long Grain Brown rice, followed by Della Basmati Brown, Carolina Whole Grain Brown, Jazzmen Louisiana Aromatic Brown, and Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value Long Grain Brown. But we also found samples of brown rice from Martin and others with inorganic arsenic levels lower than that in some white rice.”
“In brown rice, only the hull is removed. Arsenic concentrations found in the bran that is removed during the milling process to produce white rice can be 10 to 20 times higher than levels found in bulk rice grain.”

“Among the four infant cereals tested, we found varying levels of arsenic, even in the same brand. Gerber SmartNourish Organic Brown Rice cereal had one sample with the highest level of total arsenic in the category at 329 ppb, and another sample had the lowest total level in this category at 97.7 ppb. It had 0.8 to 1.3 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per serving.”

Consumer Reports Data

In general, Consumer Reports found much higher concentrations of arsenic in rice than did the FDA. Yikes. They also divulged the brand names that they tested. 

Here’s some selected data: (Source). Remember, anything more than 10 is bad. Note that these data are presented in ppb, while the above data are in micrograms, so they are not directly comparable. 

Product:                                                                                                               Total Arsenic in ppb
365 Everyday Value Long Grain Brown (Whole Foods)                                     282
365 everyday Value Organic Indian Basmati White (Whole Foods)                     100
Archer Farms Organic Basmati (Target)                                                                62
Canilla Extra Long Grain Enriched                                                                       431
Carolina Whole Grain Brown                                                                              307
Goya Enriched Medium Grain                                                                             297
Great Value Brown (Walmart)                                                                            360
Lundberg California White Basmati California                                                      62
Lundberg Short Grain Brown California                                                               204
Mahatma Extra Long Grain Enriched                                                                   284
Rice Select Organic Texmati White                                                                      917
Trader Joe's White Basmati From India                                                                85
Arrowhead Mills Organic Sweetened Rice Flakes                                                 963
DeBoles Rice Spirals                                                                                            300
Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice Pasta Fusilli                                                       347
Arrowhead Mills Organic Brown Rice Flour                                                           565
Arrowhead Mills Organic White Rice Flour                                                            373

Some Conclusions

So, I have laid it out for y’all: we need to limit our rice consumption. We celiacs and other gluten-free folks have a special problem in that we also need to avoid wheat, rye, and barley, too. Gar.

Here’s what I’m doing: I’m trying to eat rice in any form no more than once per day, and when I do, it’s white Basmati from India. I usually get the Tilda brand from an Indian Grocery store.

As an additional headache, the FDA recently stopped all imports of Basmati rice from India because they found some rat poop and a couple bugs in some. (Source.) Personally, I’ve never found any suspect “filth” in any bag of Tilda or any other brands, and I wash my rice at least three times and then I cook it in boiling water. That will kill anything biological that came along for the ride, but you can’t get rid of an element that’s been intercalated into the cells of the rice grain, such as arsenic.

I’m also eating a lot more quinoa, corn, and potatoes. I will post my recipe for Gluten-Free Hearty Quinoa Blender Bread soon.

In the meantime, nosh on my GF Company Corn Bread, which is rice-free. Company Cornbread (Much like Marie Calendar's)

Additionally, check out these blogs and blog posts, all of which have rice-free (and GF) recipes or info.