2010-2011 – Cadmium in Rice and Rice-based Products

Executive Summary

The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to test various foods for specific hazards.

The main objective of this survey was to:

  • generate baseline surveillance data on the level of cadmium in rice and rice-based products available on the Canadian retail market.

Cadmium is a toxic metal occurring naturally in the environment and as a pollutant from industrial and agricultural sources. Since cadmium is not known to fulfill a biological role in the human body, there is growing concern about its effect on humans. Cadmium has been classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Cadmium is relatively easily taken up by plants, making food intake the primary source for human cadmium exposure.

The 2010-2011 FSAP Cadmium Survey targeted domestic and imported rice and rice-based products. A total of 280 samples were collected from grocery and specialty stores in 11 Canadian cities between October 2010 and March 2011. The samples collected included 56 rice grain samples and 224 rice-based products.

Of the 280 samples analyzed for cadmium, 154 (55%) did not contain a detectable level of cadmium. The remaining 126 samples contained detectable cadmium levels ranging from 0.0054 to 0.0505 parts per million (ppm) in rice grains and 0.0026 to 0.2646 ppm in rice-based products. Currently, no maximum level, tolerance, or standard has been established by Health Canada for cadmium levels in food so compliance to a numerical standard could not be assessed. It is important to note that the cadmium levels observed in the current survey were well below the Codex Alimentarius Commission's established maximum level of 0.4 ppm of cadmium in rice.

All the data generated were shared with Health Canada for use in performing human health risk assessments. The levels of cadmium found in the various rice products tested in this survey were not expected to pose an unacceptable health risk. Appropriate follow-up actions were initiated that reflected the magnitude of the health concern.

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