Over 35 researchers, policy stakeholders and program leaders attended a two-day workshop in Hanover, NH, held November 2-3, for the Collaborative on Food with Arsenic and associated Risk and Regulation (C-FARR). The group discussed the issue of arsenic in food and the ways in which the science can better inform policy to protect public health. The resulting five papers will be published in a special section of the journal, Science of the Total Environment (STOTEN) and translation products will include a website on arsenic in food and water.

Background

Recent research has revealed that arsenic is taken up in food crops and has resulted in significant exposure to humans through the consumption of rice, apple juice, and other foods and beverages. To date, arsenic policy and regulation has focused on exposure through drinking water due to the high levels of arsenic in groundwater in certain regions of the world. However, recent studies have shown that food is a larger source of arsenic exposure for populations whose drinking water does not exceed the World Health Organization recommended standard for arsenic. Arsenic exposure through food is therefore far more widespread, and may pose greater risk to different sensitive populations, particularly children, pregnant women and those with specific diets, than arsenic in drinking water. In April 2014, the WHO/FAO Codex Alimentarius Commission released its recommendation for maximum levels of inorganic arsenic in polished rice, but much remains to be done to address these complex issues.

The Collaborative on Food with Arsenic and associated Risk and Regulation (C-FARR), sponsored by the Dartmouth College Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program and the Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at Dartmouth, is working to address important issues surrounding arsenic in food. Guided by a steering committee and support staff, C-FARR has convened a team of scientists and stakeholders to work together over a two-year period to gather and analyze data and publish a series of papers related to sources of arsenic and human exposure via food consumption. The salient findings from this initiative will be translated and distributed to public health and policy stakeholders.

C-FARR is based on the model of two workshops hosted in 2006 and 2010 by Dartmouth's Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program, which focused on identifying research and monitoring needs for mercury in marine ecosystems and resulted in a meeting report in Environmental Health Perspectives and several special issues devoted to methylmercury in the journals, Ecohealth, Environmental Health Perspectives, and Environmental Research.

C-FARR Objectives

The core objectives of C-FARR are:

  1. To develop a network of scientists who study the fate of arsenic in food and the resulting exposure to humans;

  2. To facilitate communication between stakeholders and scientists about the important questions relevant to public health policy and regulation of arsenic in food in the U.S. and globally;

  3. To provide a forum for arsenic scientists including biologists, environmental chemists, agricultural and health scientists, epidemiologists, nutritionists and pediatricians to communicate their results to other investigators and facilitate the exchange of information;

  4. To identify key questions and knowledge gaps about arsenic in food and exposure to humans via consumption of rice and other foods containing arsenic, and to facilitate the analysis of existing data to address those questions;

  5. To identify a series of proposed manuscripts and applicable data sets addressing key questions and knowledge gaps, which will provide the foundation for publication of a special issue of a peer-reviewed journal.

C-FARR Steering Committee

The direction and organization of C-FARR is guided by a Steering Committee with representation from a range of arsenic research disciplines.

  • Mary Lou Guerinot, Ph.D., Associate Director, Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program, Dartmouth College
  • Brian Jackson, Ph.D., Trace Elements Core Leader, Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program, Dartmouth College
  • Margaret Karagas, Ph.D., Director, Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at Dartmouth and Research Leader, Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program, Dartmouth College
  • Keeve Nachman, Ph.D., Director, Food Production & Public Health Program, Center for a Liveable Future, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Tracy Punshon, Ph.D., Research Investigator, Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program, Dartmouth College
    In addition C-FARR is assisted by Post-doctoral Trainee, Britton Goodale.