A possible overdose of an important vitamin might be behind the mysterious symptoms linked to Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice served at schools in Texas on Friday. The product has been recalled and the Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to use it.
Students at three public schools in Katy, Texas, experienced burning, itching rashes, headaches and nausea after eating Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Mexican Flavor on Friday. The symptoms disappeared after 30 to 90 minutes.
A previous incident on Dec. 4 sickened 25 students in Illinois with similar complaints after the school lunch included the grain. North Dakota reported a similar incident at a daycare on Oct. 30.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested rice that was left over from the Illinois school lunch and the results showed an increased amount of niacin, or Vitamin B3, in the grain.
“Overexposure to niacin can lead to skin reactions such as redness and flushing, itching and dry skin. Very large doses can cause indigestion and nausea,” said FDA’s Theresa Eisenman.
“There is no confirmation at this time that the Texas incident was caused by excess niacin, and the rice eaten was not part of the previous recall. Investigation into this outbreak continues,” Eisenman said.
Niacin is one of several essential human nutrients routinely added to foods. Lack of niacin can cause a disease called pellagra that causes nausea, skin and mouth lesions, headache and exhaustion.
U.S. bakers began to use flour fortified with niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and iron in 1930. Before flour was enriched, pellagra was associated with poverty and poor diet in the United States.
Mars Foodservices, the maker of Uncle Ben’s rice products, is recalling all bags and lot numbers of its Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice products produced in 2013.
The recall does not affect Uncle Ben’s Brand Ready-to-Heat, boxed, bag or cup products sold directly to consumers at grocery stores and other retail outlets.
The rice was sold in 5-pound and 25-pound bags. It is typically distributed to restaurants, schools, hospitals and other commercial establishments. It is possible that consumers might have purchased the products over the Internet and at warehouse-type retailers, the FDA said in a release.
The FDA said food service companies and consumers who have purchased the products should not use the rice, and should return it to their point of purchase or dispose of it.
Read more: USA Today