WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration is warning against eating Uncle Ben's rice products served at schools, restaurants, hospitals and other food service institutions after children in three states suffered burning, itching rashes, headaches and nausea linked to the rice.
Mars Foodservices of Rancho Dominguez, Calif., is recalling 5- and 25-pound bags of the rice, known as Uncle Ben's Infused Rice products. Uncle Ben's products sold in supermarkets and other retail outlets are not recalled. Although the recalled product is not typically marketed to individual consumers, it may be available over the Internet and at warehouse-type retailers.
A statement from Mars Foodservices said the illnesses may be related to high levels of niacin, or Vitamin B3, in the rice. Enrichment of rice with niacin follows federal and state rules, it said.
The FDA said it was notified Feb. 7 that 34 students and four teachers from three public schools in Katy, Texas, had experienced burning, itching rashes, headaches and nausea for 30 to 90 minutes after eating the rice.
In December, a similar incident took place in Illinois when 25 students had similar skin reactions after a school lunch that served an Uncle Ben's Infused Rice product.
On Oct. 30, North Dakota reported a similar incident. Three children in a day care and one college student experienced flushing reactions after eating an Uncle Ben's Infused Rice product.
Overexposure to niacin can lead to skin reactions such as redness and flushing, itching and dry skin, an FDA spokeswoman said. Very large doses can cause indigestion and nausea.