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Frequently Asked Questions, and Answers!

Q: Where can I find your products?

A: Our products are available for sale across the country in most natural food and co-op stores, gourmet/specialty markets, chain grocery stores and online. If you want to purchase them directly from our web site please visit our online store. Since we sell most of our rice through distributors we may not know every store in a particular area that stock our rice, but you can always call us to ask.

If our products are not sold at the store you choose to shop at, you might consider asking for our items to be brought in.

You can also find our products on the menus of many "white tablecloth" restaurants.

Q: What does heirloom mean?

A: Heirloom is a term used to refer to plants that are grown from indigenous seed stock. Often, these seed stocks are ancient and have been used in a region traditionally. These seeds have not been hybridized or genetically engineered.

Q: Why is Forbidden Rice® called Forbidden?

A: During the days of the Ching and Ming dynasties Forbidden Rice was exclusively reserved for the Chinese Emperors to ensure their longevity and good health. Eventually, common people were allowed to eat the rice. Since then, it has become a nourishing staple that is reputed to promote long life and good health.

Q: What makes Forbidden Rice® so special?

A: Forbidden Rice has the darkest bran layer of any whole grain rice. It is this bran layer where all the minerals, vitamins and fiber are stored. Forbidden Rice is also very high in a class of antioxidants called anthocyanins and could be considered a "superfood." For such a dark whole grain rice, it is extremely convenient, cooking in only 30 minutes and producing a roasted nutty taste with a hint of fruit or floral at the finish. In Chinese medicinal they say that Forbidden Rice is a blood tonifier, aids in the circulation of the blood and is high in chi. Learn more about this amazing rice, and the "Black Dragon River" region where it is grown.

Q: Why does the Forbidden Rice® bleed black. Is it dyed?

A: Forbidden Rice is not dyed; it is awhole grain rice where the outer layer is black. This black bran is where all the nutritional value of the rice is stored. When wet, this black bran bleeds. Care should be taken in using wooden utensils.

Q: What is Lotus Foods fair trade policy?

A: Fair trade is to foster an equitable and sustainable global system of production and trade. When we first began importing our rices, fair trade certified rice did not exist. However, we have always supported global sustainability and paid our small family farmers premium prices for their highest quality, highest nutrition heirloom rices. You can learn more about this on our Fair Trade page.

Q: Are your products Kosher Certified?

A: Yes, by Scroll K.

Q: Should I rinse the rice?

A: Rinsing rice is a personal preference. Here at Lotus Foods, we do not rinse our rice because we prefer to keep all the nutritional value of each grain.

Q: Should rice be soaked?

A: All grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorous is bound) in the outer layer or bran. Whole grains, in particular, may be difficult for some people to digest. As little as 7 hours of soaking in warm water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains and vastly improve their nutritional benefits.

Q: How should I store Lotus Foods rice?

A: Lotus Foods should be stored in cool and dry conditions. Our rice is warehoused in 55-60 degree temperatures. If you are not going to use the rice for long periods of time, rice can be kept in the refrigerator and can even be frozen. Exposing the rice to heat and sunlight can cause the rice to go rancid or to develop bugs.

Q: Are any of your rices organic?

A: We have a number of certified organic rices; Organic Forbidden Rice®, Organic Jade Pearl Rice™, Organic Jasmine Rice, Organic Brown Jasmine Rice, Organic Volcano Rice, Organic Mekong Flower and Madagascar Pink Rice. Our Bhutanese Red Rice has been grown for centuries without the use of herbicides and pesticides and we continue to work with Bhutan's Ministry of Agriculture to help farmers secure organic certification. All of our rices are premium and natural with great cooking quality, taste, texture, color and nutritional value.

Q: What is the meaning of whole grain?

A: Whole grain means that the germ and bran layer on the rice is left intact. All rice starts as a whole grain; when the germ and bran layer is removed, you then have white rice.

Most of the nutritional value in a grain of rice is within the germ and bran layer. This layer is most often brown (as in brown rice), but can also be red (as in Bhutanese Red Rice) and black (as it is in the Forbidden Rice). There is extensive scientific evidence documenting the fact that incorporating whole grains into the diet promotes health and can prevent a number of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers. Learn more about the wonderful benefits of whole grains.

Q: What is celiac disease?

A: A lifelong autoimmune intestinal disorder, found in individuals who are genetically susceptible. Damage to the mucosal surface of the small intestine is caused by an immunologically toxic reaction to the ingestion of gluten and interferes with the absorption of nutrients. Celiac Disease (CD) is unique in that a specific food component, gluten, has been identified as the trigger. Gluten is the common name for the offending proteins in specific cereal grains that are harmful to persons with CD. These proteins are found in all forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn, and faro), and related grains, rye, barley, and triticale, and must be eliminated.

Q: Are your rices gluten free?

A: Yes. All of our rices are gluten and wheat free.

Q: I am diabetic. Can I eat your rice?

A: Yes. However, if you have diabetes, you should eat the whole grain rice since these grains have a low glycemic index. Whole grains do not turn into sugars rapidly and can be digested at a more even rate so there will not be a spike in blood glucose levels. Read more about whole grains and the benefits to diabetics.

Q: What is glycemice index?

A: Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal, in fact they behave quite differently in our bodies. The glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low GI carbs - the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels - is the secret to long-term health reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to sustainable weight loss.

All of our whole grainrices have a low glycemic index of 55 or less.

Q: Are Lotus Food Rice products processed in a peanut and tree nut free facility?

The processing line at Lotus Foods co-packing facility is free of peanuts, but they do process products that contain tree nuts. Standard sanitizing procedures are followed between processing runs to eliminate contamination.

Q: What makes a rice aromatic?

"Aromatic" is a term given to numerous varieties of rice characterized by a pronounced nutty aroma and flavor, often compared to popcorn. Jasmine Rice is, perhaps, one of the best-known aromatic varietals, although there are others, such as our Forbidden Rice®. It is believed that the aroma is produced by a much higher proportion of a naturally occurring compound found in all rice, 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline.

Q: Why are there different colors of rice and what do these differences mean?

All rice starts as a whole grain, which means that the germ and bran layer are intact. When these are removed, you have white rice. The most common bran layer for rice is brown. But there are also red and black rices. The darker the bran layer, the more nutritional value the rice has. So our Forbidden Rice®, which is ablack rice, is the most nutrient-dense rice you can buy. Some rices are only partially milled, so some of the bran layer is left on. These rices tend to be light tan, pink or even a striated color. Our Madagascar Pink Rice is an example of rice that is partially milled. It still retains a high level of nutrition, but cooks faster and has a texture that is closer to white rice.

Q: What causes brown or black spots on the end of the Organic Jasmine Rice?

During growth some rice tillers (or stalks) break off during the liquid stage of growth which causes some of the rice to have a darker color when it matures. This color does not affect the taste or quality of the rice. Our rice mill cannot sort out these dark rices, although other rice mills do have this capacity, which is why you may not see this effect in other brands of rice.

Q: Why does the rice cooker splatter?

Sometimes the rice will spatter through the vent hole, which sometimes may get messy. To prevent this from happening, simply put the steamer tray on top (which defuses the stream of steam) and put the glass lid on top of that. Otherwise, placing a paper towel loosely over the vent hole will soak up the excess without affecting the rice cooking process.

Q: Why does the rice stick to the bottom of the rice cooker and how can I clean it?

Rice sticking to the bottom of the pan is normal and one of the reasons that Teflon became so popular. Unfortunately, Teflon rice cookers are unhealthy and unsustainable (you can read more about this on our rice cooker page). Our rice cooker is made of stainless steel -- the only non-reactive cooking surface. Stainless steel is recyclable and a great conductor of heat and does not leach any harmful chemicals into your food. So, although it may take one more step to clean, we believe it is the best, most healthful option.

Here are our suggestions for easier cleaning:

  1. Try putting some oil, such as peanut oil, on the bottom of the pan before cooking your rice.
  2. If the rice has already stuck to the bottom of the cooker, add an inch of water and put the cooker back on cook. Let the water come to a boil. Shut the cooker and leave standing until the water cools. This loosens the cooked rice and makes it easy to clean.
  3. Put a cup of water in the rice cooker and let it re-cook. Then turn it to warm, or turn it off, and strain the rice tea into a cup and drink it. This is a favorite drink in Madagascar that they make after cooking rice. It is delicious and nutritious.
  4. Simply soak the rice bowl in hot water and the water will will loosen the rice and make it easy to clean.

Q: How can I be assured that your products from China are not toxic or tainted?

We have been working with farmers who grow our Forbidden Rice®, Organic Forbidden Rice® and Organic Jade Pearl Rice™ for many years. The "Black Dragon River" region where these rices are grown is one of the few areas in China that can be certified organic, due to the pristine nature of the land and waters there. Organic certification implies that no chemicals have been used in the production of the rice. Additionally, we test each container of rice that we receive for pesticide residue or other toxicity. While we have never had reason to do so, if any container of rice were found to be contaminated, we would reject it.

Q: What should I know about arsenic and food?

Lotus Foods FAQs on Arsenic & Rice

About these FAQs

Rice is comprised of many elements that contribute to human health. But like with any plant, the presence and balance of those elements depends on the quality of the soil, air and water in which the plant is grown. Too little or too much of certain elements can negatively affect human and animal health. This seems to be the case with arsenic. We do not profess to be experts on this subject. So we have consulted some experts and expert sources, and would like to share our findings. We encourage you to conduct your own investigations but our interpretation of the literature is that our customers can eat Lotus Foods rice every day if they so choose, and feel confident that based on best current knowledge they are eating a healthy food. Professor John Duxbury, a well-known expert on arsenic in rice at Cornell University, reviewed these FAQs. We will continue to follow this issue closely and apprise you of any important new developments.

Where we looked for information

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization maintain a joint international expert scientific committee called the FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The goal of the committee is to develop food standards and guidelines to protect the health of consumers. Arsenic in food and water has been extensively studied, with standards set and often revisited over the years. In March 2011 the committee conducted a comprehensive review of current global knowledge, with the intent of determining the feasibility of setting maximum levels for arsenic in rice. The committee’s "Discussion Paper on Arsenic in Rice" was used as a primary resource for these FAQs. Page numbers are provided to direct readers to the relevant research and discussion, and a link to the Discussion Paper, which includes an extensive bibliography, is provided below.

What is arsenic?

Arsenic (As) is an element in the environment that is found naturally in rocks and soil, water, air, and in plants and animals. It can also be released into the environment from some agricultural (e.g. pesticides) and industrial sources (e.g., pressure-treated lumber for non-residential use). We normally take in small amounts of arsenic in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Arsenic is found in many food products including rice, seafood, poultry, juices, coffee, beer, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms, bread and chocolate.

Why be concerned about arsenic?

Researchers refer to ‘species’ of arsenic, which can be in either organic or inorganic forms. Generally, the inorganic forms are considered to be more toxic as studies show that acute short-term or chronic long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic can cause adverse cancerous and non-cancerous effects. The main factors influencing dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic are the water supply, types of foods consumed and food preparation methods.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Position

The FDA has done extensive testing of arsenic in rice. In September 2013, after analyzing some 1300 samples of rice grains and rice-based food for total and inorganic arsenic, they concluded that the amounts of detectable arsenic are not high enough to cause any immediate or short-term adverse health effects.

Has Lotus Foods tested its rice for arsenic?

Lotus Foods had all of its rice tested several times during 2013 for total arsenic. Two of the tests were done at commercial labs and one set was done at Cornell University. The results below are the average of the three tests expressed in “parts per billion/ppb” so you can compare them with levels reported in the FDA’s Full Analytic Results (see pages 30-35 of the Report).

Madagascar Pink Rice - 3 ppb

Volcano™ Rice - 40 ppb

Bhutan Red Rice - 57 ppb

Jade Pearl™ Rice - 87 ppb

M.F. Brown Jasmine Rice - 289 ppb

Forbidden Rice® (Organic) - 188 ppb

Forbidden Rice® (Non-organic) - 195 ppb

Forbidden Rice® (Heat & Eat Bowl) - 35 ppb (grown in Indonesia)

So how do Lotus Foods rices compare to other rice?

Compared with the results for the 1300 rices tested by FDA and with the results for rice tested by Consumer Reports in their independent investigation, Lotus Foods rices have among the lowest levels of total arsenic of any rice on the market, and in some cases the lowest levels.

What about inorganic arsenic?

Generally, inorganic arsenic is estimated to be about half of total arsenic. But if you look at the FDA results you will see the proportion varies considerably. We found this to be the case for two of our rices. We had our Mekong Flower Brown Jasmine (grown in Cambodia) and Forbidden Rice® (grown in China) tested for inorganic arsenic. The others did not warrant testing for inorganic arsenic as their levels of total arsenic are so low. The results are as follows (expressed in parts per billion so you can compare) with the two reports noted above:

M.F. Brown Jasmine 289 ppb (Total As)
87 ppb (Inorganic As)
Forbidden Rice® 195 ppb (Total As) 111 ppb (Inorganic As)

How does arsenic get into rice?

What elevates arsenic in rice is that it is generally grown submerged in water, so arsenic in both the soil and water can increase concentrations in the rice plant. Other food crops are not grown under flooded conditions and soils are aerobic with plenty of oxygen around the root system. Arsenic is thus locked in the soil and doesn’t get into the plants to such an extent as rice grown under flooded conditions. Research shows that the total arsenic content in rice plants is correlated to the degree of arsenic contamination of irrigation water and soil. None of the regions where Lotus Foods rice is grown have any known arsenic contamination.

Growing rice aerobically can considerably decrease the arsenic transfer from soil to grain. In one greenhouse experiment, arsenic concentrations in grain were 10−15-fold higher in flooded than in aerobically grown rice. This is one of the many reasons Lotus Foods works with farmers who use More Crop Per Drop™ methods, known globally as SRI (system of rice intensification). Farmers do not keep their fields continuously flooded but maintain mostly aerobic soil conditions, as one would for wheat or corn. A recent paper that reviewed the literature related to arsenic contamination of rice identified SRI as a promising strategy to reduce levels of arsenic in rice grain without loses in productivity.

What are tolerable or safe levels?

The US regulates total arsenic in drinking water (0.01 mg/liter or 10 ppb) but it does not have standards for total or inorganic arsenic in food or rice. California’s Proposition 65 recommends consuming no more than 10 micrograms (0.01 mg) of inorganic arsenic a day. What does that mean? Here is an example: Mekong Flower Brown Jasmine tested 0.087 ppm for inorganic arsenic. This is the same as 0.087 mcg/gm. This means you would need to consume 114 gm of rice to reach the daily limit. That would be more than two servings of dry rice at 45 gm per serving or several cups of cooked rice.

The Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods, which has been studying arsenic in food for many years, has proposed a Maximum Level for Arsenic in Raw Rice of 0.3 mg/kg (whether inorganic As or total As). This is equivalent to 300 ppb. All Lotus Foods rices are below this standard.

Cooking reduces arsenic

Different food preparation methods such as rinsing, steaming and cooking reduce arsenic content. In one study, washing with uncontaminated water and cooking reduced arsenic content by 7.1-20.6% (Sun et al.). Another study found that washing or soaking rice and then discarding the water before cooking is effective at reducing arsenic levels, especially inorganic forms. Experiments with high-volume water rice cooking of long-grain and basmati rice (using 1 rice:6 water ratio) effectively removed both total and inorganic arsenic by 35% and 45%, respectively.


It is important to note that the health risk induced by presence of arsenic in food also depends on its release from the food matrix, i.e., its bioaccessibility in your body. Arsenic bioaccessibility of cooked rice in the small intestine ranges between 38 and 57% (Sun et al.). Thus, not all of the arsenic ingested is used by the body.

What does all this mean for how much Lotus Foods rice I can eat?

You can easily enjoy one or more servings of Lotus Foods rice every day without any concern about adverse effects from arsenic. You may wish to review other foods and beverages you are consuming to determine a more complete idea of how much arsenic you may be getting through your diet.

Sources and Further Reading

Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods, 5th Session, The Hague, The Netherlands, 21 – 25 March 2011. Discussion Paper on Arsenic in Rice (Prepared By The Electronic Working Group Led By China).

Note: : This Discussion Paper summarizes the status of research around the world as it relates to rice and arsenic.

Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods Sixth Session, Maastricht, The Netherlands, 26 – 30 March 2012 PROPOSED DRAFT MAXIMUM LEVELS FOR ARSENIC IN RICE

Guo-Xin Suna, Tom Van de Wieleb, Pradeep Alavac, Filip Tackc, Gijs Du Laing.c, Arsenic in cooked rice: Effect of chemical, enzymatic and microbial processes on bioaccessibility and speciation in the human gastrointestinal tract Environ Pollut. 2012 Mar;162:241-6. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

Senanayakea, Nari, and Aditi Mukherjib. 2014. Irrigating with arsenic contaminated groundwater in West Bengal and Bangladesh: A review of interventions for mitigating adverse health and crop outcomes. Agricultural Water Management 135(31): 90-99. doi: 10.1016/j.agwat.2013.12.015

Q: What should I know about lead and food?

Lotus Foods FAQs on Lead & Rice

I read about high levels of lead in imported rice. What’s this all about?!

In April 2013, beginning with a BBC article appearing on April 10, 2013, media reports claimed that US rice imports contain harmful levels of lead.1 The reports focused exclusively on tests conducted by scientists at Monmouth University in New Jersey, US. The results were reported in a poster presented by Dr. Tsanangurayi Tongesayi at the American Chemical Society (ACS) conference April 7-11, 2013. The paper was withdrawn shortly after on the grounds that faulty instrumentation had led to the exaggerated levels.2

Unfortunately, the BBC article went viral without any of the news services or journalists questioning the results, which were immediately flagged by rice experts as being inconsistent with data reported in other reputable studies from around the world.

For example, the European Food Safety Authority recently updated its Scientific Opinion on Lead in Food and concluded: "The following food groups were identified as the major contributors to lead exposure: cereal products, followed by potatoes, cereal grains (except rice), cereal-based mixed dishes and leafy vegetables and tap water."3 Rice contributed only 1.5% to total exposure to lead from food, compared with almost 7% from all other cereal products.4 Of the 612 rice samples tested 70% had levels below the limit of detection.5 The European Union imports about 860,000 tons of rice annually. Both Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture (COA) and the president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association (TREA) immediately questioned the credibility of the study.6

So what are tolerable or safe levels?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not set a fixed standard for lead in food but recommends a provisional daily total tolerable intake (PDTTI) for at risk groups of 6, 15, 25, and 75 micrograms for young children, older children, pregnant or lactating women, and adult women, respectively.7 A microgram (abbreviated as mcg or ug) is one millionth of a gram. If a sugar cube (which weighs about 1 gram) is cut into one thousand pieces, and one of those tiny pieces is further cut into another thousand pieces, this would be equivalent to a microgram. The FDA has, however, determined that candy products, which small children might consume in larger quantities, should have no more than 0.1 parts per million (ppm) of lead, the equivalent of 0.1 ug/gm.8

The State of California had developed its own more stringent guidelines for NSRL (no significant risk level) for carcinogens and MADL (maximum allowable dose level) for chemicals causing reproductive toxicity. Proposition 65 has determined that for lead the NSRL is 15 ug /day and the MADL is 0.5 ug/day, significantly lower than what the FDA finds acceptable.9

Has Lotus Foods tested its rice for lead?

Yes. All of our rices were tested April 2013 by Eurofins Labs. The results show that all rices have either non-detectable levels or levels far below any of the current limits, including Proposition 65. Levels detected range from 0.005 to 0.009 ppm, equivalent to 0.005 to 0.009 ug/gm).

What does all this mean for how much Lotus Foods rice I can eat?

Here is an example. Our Bhutan Red Rice showed 0.005 ppm of lead. This translates into 0.005 ug/gm. Therefore, if you were to be super-cautious and adhere to California’s Proposition 65 MADL guidelines, what this means is that every day you could cook 100 gm of dried rice and eat the entire amount before you reached their MADL of 0.5 ug/day. If you adhered to their NRSL of 15 ug/day, you could cook and consume 3 kilos of dried rice every day. And, if you followed the FDA guidelines of no more than 75 ug/day for an adult woman, then you could cook and consume 15 kilos of dry rice every day! To provide some further context, FDA’s Total Diet Study Statistics on Element Results found 0.04 ppm of lead in chocolate syrup dessert topping.10 The World Health Organization calculates that children playing outdoors and in contact with soil can ingest about 2.3 ug (mcg) of lead/day.11

Where can I learn more about lead and food?

Sources abound on the Internet. For example, the European Food Safety Authority’s Scientific Opinion on Lead in Food, cited above, is very comprehensive.

Nutrition and Childhood Lead Poisoning: This article suggests other foods and dietary habits that can reduce the effects of lead.

This is the FDA web resource:

3 (p.3)
4 (p.54)
5 (p.35)
10 (p. 93)
11 (p. 23-24)

Q: Does the rice cooker have a guarantee?

Our rice cooker is covered by a separate Lotus Foods guarantee:

"The original purchase of this appliance is fully protected against defects in parts, materials and workmanship for a period of one year. All repairs will be made without charge, provided this model appliance is delivered to the Lotus Foods address prepaid. Return shipping will be free of charge within the contiguous United States. This is in lieu of all other guarantees expressed or implied by any persons in any way connected with the sales, distribution or manufacture of said model appliance. This guarantee will not apply to any part of this machine, which has been subjected to any accident, abuse or misuse. This guarantee is void if appliance is used commercially. Address: Lotus Foods, Inc. 921 Richmond Street, El Cerrito, CA 94530, Phone: 510-525-3137"

Q: What is your return policy for the rice?

If you purchase rice from our online store and are not absolutely satisfied with your purchase, for any reason, let us know. We will promptly replace the item or give you a refund of its purchase price. It's that simple. Click here for details.

Q: What is your return policy for the rice cooker?

Please call 510-525-3137 for return authorization. After receiving authorization, then send item prepaid to:

Lotus Foods, Inc.
921 Richmond Street
El Cerrito, CA 94530

Q: What about product exchanges?

Our returns center cannot process exchanges. If you have found another item on our site that you would prefer over the one originally ordered, please return the original item and place a separate order for the new item. We will notify you via e-mail when the return has been processed.