It was just over a year ago that the FDA announced its findings of arsenic in rice. Further studies determined that the arsenic levels were too low to present immediate health concerns. The FDA also stressed that arsenic occurs naturally in water and soil, and more research will be needed to assess the long-term health risks. Following this news, Mike Adams of Natural News conducted a study measuring the heavy metal content of various protein powders. What he found was alarmingly high levels of tungsten, lead and cadmium, in several popular rice protein powders. The dangers appear to be limited to only rice proteins; other types of protein powders tested did not show significant heavy metal content.
Immediately, SunWarrior and Garden of Life partnered up with Natural News to develop and implement strict industry standards for heavy metals in rice protein powders. They have committed to reaching these standards by July 1, 2015, and have invited other protein powder companies to sign onto this agreement to improve product safety.
Is SunWarrior Classic rice protein safe?
Rumors have been floating around that SunWarrior Classic rice protein powder may have been one of the powders with metal contents exceeding acceptable limits. While I can find no evidence of SunWarrior being specifically implicated in Mike Adam’s study, this company has been drawn into the controversy, and their involvement in the discussions leads one to question whether their rice powders are indeed safe. Unfortunately the original Natural News article was retracted almost immediately. I even crawled through the Internet archives to try to access the original data, but it was not accessible, leaving little third-party information about the safety of SunWarrior rice protein.
SunWarrior claims to routinely test their protein powders, but does not publish detailed results since the metal content may vary in natural products. According to a company representative, “All Sunwarrior products fall well below FDA, WHO, EPA, and EU guidelines for heavy metal concentrations and can safely be used daily without concern.” Presumably, SunWarrior is already working to reach the stricter standards they have agreed to follow.
Heavy metals are naturally-occurring in everyday foods
It is important to note that heavy metals occur naturally to some extent in most foods. Only heavily processed foods that have been stripped of all vitamins and minerals approach heavy metal contents of zero. A sweet potato, for example, in an FDA study, contained 7.26mcg lead, 2.04mcg cadmium, and 2.95mcg arsenic. This is naturally-occurring, organic metal content, which differs from the more dangerous inorganic metals resulting from industrial contamination and pollution. In the same FDA study, rice contained less lead and cadmium, but more arsenic (14.51mcg, which is 9.7% of the FDA daily limit) than sweet potato. Tuna, on the other hand, contained 163.63mcg arsenic, which slightly exceeds FDA limits, so the exposure via rice is modest by comparison. Micrograms are small – one millionth of a gram – and levels in these amounts are unavoidable in natural, healthy, minimally-processed foods. This is true of both non-organic and organic foods, and because the USDA places no limits on metal content of certified organic foods, and produce grown in heavily contaminated areas or watered with polluted water can still be certified organic even with higher levels of metal contaminants.
Rice protein is still a great protein
Rice protein is an ideal protein source for those with allergies, intolerance, or digestive issues, as well as those on dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan diets. It contains essential amino acids, vitamins B and E, fiber and carbohydrates, without the fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium of other protein sources. It is hypoallergenic and easy to digest. Rice protein has been shown in a University of Tampa study to be identical to whey in strength and muscle building and exercise recovery. It doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes and can prevent storage of body fat.
In light of the uncertainty regarding SunWarrior Classic, which rice powder can I use instead?
We recommend switching to Perfect Plant Protein Powder to ensure you are getting the healthiest, safest rice protein available. Perfect Supplements tests every single lot of protein powders they produce and makes the results available to the public. These powders are consistently well below USP limits for heavy metals.