Brown Rice and Arsenic

We used to allow brown rice syrup as a sweetener while cleansing. However, we now recommend that you use either stevia, coconut nectar, or naturally sweet fruits instead. Here's why....

Researchers at Dartmouth College released a study that created quite a controversy. The study concluded that many cereal bars and infant formulas sweetened with brown rice syrup had elevated levels of arsenic.

Here are three reasons this study alarmed so many people:

1) Even though arsenic is a naturally occurring soil compound, being exposed to high levels of it over a period of time can be very toxic.

2) The arsenic levels in the products that Dartmouth College tested were greatly above federal limits. Sometimes as much as 2 to 20 times higher than federal limits.

3) Infants, who end up eating baby food with brown rice syrup in it daily, are more susceptible to higher arsenic levels than adults. The main reason why is because such a high percentage of an infant’s daily nutrition comes from their formula. Therefore, infants end up getting a higher percentage of arsenic in their diet than adults.

Naturally, this study raises lots of questions. One of the most important questions it raises is “Do other products that contain brown rice syrup have elevated levels of arsenic?”

Question: Do any Clean products contain brown rice syrup or elevated arsenic levels?

Answer: No. Our products DO NOT contain brown rice syrup, brown rice syrup solids or elevated levels or arsenic. All rice syrup solids in our products come from clarified rice syrup solids made from white rice.

The difference between white rice (what we use) and brown rice syrup solids (what was mentioned in the Dartmouth College study) is that brown rice is often higher in arsenic than white rice. The outer layer that’s removed from brown rice in the product process contains most of the inorganic arsenic, which is the more toxic form of arsenic.

We have two products that contain clarified rice syrup solids made from white rice: the Cleanse Shakes, and the Maintenance Shakes. While the clarified rice used to create this ingredient does contain small levels of naturally occurring arsenic (like fish, sweet potatoes, almost every other food grown in the ground or ocean) the levels are within federal limits and not elevated like the products featured in the Dartmouth College study.

Most importantly, our products DO NOT contain elevated arsenic levels.

Question: How do you know your products do not contain elevated arsenic levels?

Answer: We work with our partner Metagenics, to independently test every batch of raw materials used in our products. This includes the clarified rice syrup solid we use and every other ingredient too. We test every batch for the presence of elevated levels of heavy metals including arsenic.

Metagenics has been in business over 30 years and their team is known to have the one of the most rigorous raw ingredient testing processes in the entire supplement industry. Learn more about Metagenics' quality standards on their website. 

The Larger Context: Two important points to understand about the Dartmouth study

1) Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that many plants and animals absorb from the soil and water. Arsenic isn’t just found in brown rice syrup. It is also found in many other foods like sweet potatoes and fish. For many people, fish is the primary food source for exposure to arsenic. But naturally occurring arsenic in food does not need to make us fearful or anxious. It simply means we have to understand this issue in a larger context.

Exposure to organic arsenic happens anytime you grow something in the ground. Our goal is to make sure we aren’t getting elevated levels of arsenic in our diet, especially the inorganic form, the most toxic form. That type of arsenic often comes from pesticides, herbicides, and pollution.

2) While it is important to reduce our exposure arsenic, simply focusing on brown rice syrup is missing the larger picture. We feel the most important takeaway from this study is this:

Reduce your exposure to processed foods and products. Stick to whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible.

Question: What if I eat other products that contain brown rice syrup such as protein bars and sweeteners? Does Clean recommend I stop consuming them?

Answer : We recommend you reduce your consumption of foods that contain brown rice syrup. This is even more important if the company you are ordering from cannot guarantee that their products are free of elevated arsenic levels.

A food scare such as this one is a great reminder to think about the important question posed by Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch: “How many foods do I need to eat that are processed with ingredients I don’t really know that much about?”

Here are Clean’s recommendations:

  • choose whole foods over processed foods, as much as possible
  • reduce dependency on sweeteners, even if they are “natural”

Question: Brown rice syrup is currently listed on the “include list” on the Clean Elimination Diet. Does Clean feel differently about brown rice syrup now?

Answer : Yes, we do feel differently. We no longer believe brown rice syrup should be on the “include list” of sweeteners. We are in the process of removing it as a recommendation in our book, in our manual, and on our website.

Just like you, we’re learning. Although we have removed brown rice syrup, there are many other sweetener options to choose from.

Here are our Clean Sweetener recommendations:

  • While doing the Clean Program Cleanse: stevia and coconut nectar
  • After doing the Clean Program Cleanse: raw honey, stevia and coconut nectar

Question: If I have additional questions or thoughts about this subject, can I contact someone?

Answer : Yes. Please contact customer support at or (888) 497-8417 (M-F 9am to 5pm EST)

With Love,
The Clean Team

Still need help? Contact Us Contact Us