This should be a given, but nobody wants to eat poison in their food. Despite that, Health Canada is just now looking to limit how much arsenic can be in our food. Previously there has been no limits or regulations on how much arsenic could be present in foods, despite regulations like these already existing in Europe.
Arsenic is a chemical element on the periodic table. It is often found in some metals, electronics, and in some pesticides and herbicides. Since it can kill pests, it's should be clear that arsenic poses significant risks to humans as well. In fact, it's considered to be a Group 1 Carcinogen, meaning there is significant evidence that it can cause cancer in humans.
On top of that arsenic is also poisonous. If too much of it is ingested then it can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, red blood cell destruction, and even a quick death in some cases. In order to treat arsenic poisoning, someone needs dialysis to flush it out of their system.
Yet despite all these risks, neither Canada or the United States had any strict limits on how much arsenic was allowed to be present in foods. Fortunately for Canadians, the regulations are changing.
Health Canada says that this year the will finally begin a long consultation process, with the end goal of putting a hard cap in place on how much arsenic can be present in our food.
This process will involve putting together a preliminary report, that will be presented to food industry experts, organizations, and consumers for consultation and review.
Part of the reason this consultation is just starting now is that while the science is clear that arsenic can be really harmful to humans, but it's still unclear exactly how much is ok.
One would think the logical answer to how much poison is acceptable would be zero, but with arsenic, it's not that simple. Another factor that is complicating everything is that arsenic is naturally found in a lot of foods.
For example, lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, and even fish contains some amounts of arsenic. Most famously, arsenic is food in apple seeds. On top of that, it has recently been found in small amounts in some rice and juices.
This move comes after a recent investigation from CBC found concerning levels of arsenic in some rice products in Canada, specifically in baby foods.