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Wash rice to reduce microplastic contamination

Rinsing white rice with water

Washing your rice before cooking not only removes the surface starch that can make it gluggy when cooked, new research has found it also removes significant amounts of microplastic found in packaged rice.

Australian researchers found people may be consuming three to four milligrams of microplastics for every 100 grams of rice they eat, or up to 13 milligrams per serve for instant or ready rice.

Lead author Jake O’Brien says the study is the first to quantify levels of microplastics in rice.

“Rice is a staple food around the world, so it is important we understand the quantity of microplastics we could be consuming”, Dr O’Brien says.

“Our study found we may be consuming three to four milligrams of plastic through a single-serve or 100 grams of rice”.

The researchers tested for seven different plastic types ranging from the most common plastic, polyethylene, to plastics used in clothing and food production, laminates, technical engineering, polystyrene, acrylics and tube piping.

They found plastics in ready or instant rice were around four times higher in quantity than in regular uncooked rice.

“Currently there are many unknowns about how harmful consuming microplastics is to human health, but we do know exposure can cause an element of risk,” Dr O’Brien says.

Washing rice before cooking reduces plastic contaminants by 20 to 40 per cent, the researchers found.

The study was published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials and the researchers hope it encourages further research into where plastic contamination occurs and how that can be reduced.

For more on how to cook perfect rice you might be interested in this.

First published: May 2021

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