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Parliamentary questions
24 April 2013
Question for written answer
to the Commission
Rule 117
Fiorello Provera (EFD) , Charles Tannock (ECR)

 Subject:  Alleged presence of lead in rice imports

On April 11 2013 a number of news sources reported that analysis by researchers at Monmouth University, New Jersey, has shown that rice from Asia, Europe and South America contains dangerous toxic amounts of lead, ranging from 6 to 12 milligrams per kilo. Infants and children who consume such rice could be exposed to lead at levels 30 to 60 times higher than the tolerable safety limit, as set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Time magazine has reported that the FDA uses a standard for contamination known as provisional total tolerable intake (PTTI). This represents the maximum level of exposure to a substance before potentially toxic or adverse health effects might occur. For chemical toxicants to be considered a health risk, the level of contamination must be ten times the PTTI. However, the researchers at Monmouth University found the lead levels in the rice examined to be two to twelve times higher than ten times the PTTI. This indicates a level of contamination that can almost certainly cause adverse health effects.

Rice from Taiwan and China contained the highest levels of lead. Large traces were also found in imports from Thailand, Bhutan, India, Italy and the Czech Republic. Rice becomes contaminated when it is harvested and planted, as either the soil or the water used for irrigation is contaminated. Exposure to lead can affect the cognitive development of children and stunt their growth, while among adults it can cause kidney damage, heart disease and calcium deficiency. Many years ago lead was removed from petrol sold in the EU in order to prevent such toxic exposure.

1. What steps is the Commission currently taking to monitor lead levels in exported European rice and in rice imported from countries affected, such as China and Taiwan?

2. Is the Commission prepared to investigate the findings with researchers from Monmouth University and the US Food and Drug Administration?

3. Is the Commission concerned about the possibility that the consumption of lead-contaminated rice has already had adverse health effects within EU Member States?

 OJ C 35 E, 06/02/2014
Last updated: 6 May 2013Legal notice