A case study we just published describes a crisis faced by Lundberg Family Farms, a fourth-generation farm in Richvale, Calif., that grows and sells rice and rice products. Founded in 1937 by Albert Lundberg, who came to California from Nebraska to escape the Dust Bowl, the company now has 225 employees and grows rice — 70 percent of which is organic — on a total of 17,000 acres. Its annual revenue exceeds $50 million.
In February, a Dartmouth study found inorganic arsenic — a carcinogen — in brown rice syrup. In September, Consumer Reports released the results of independent lab tests that found inorganic arsenic in a variety of rice and rice products. It left the rice industry reeling and Lundberg Family Farms’ customers in a panic.
The company was inundated with calls and e-mails from consumers wanting to know where the arsenic was coming from and whether eating rice could harm them. Neither the Lundbergs nor the government had answers. No standards have been set for safe levels of inorganic arsenic in food.