It is relatively well known that arsenic is a toxin that may be found as a contaminant in drinking water. In fact, it is one of the reasons that homeowners have their private water supply tested from time to time. But now it appears that consumers have cause for concern about arsenic levels in certain food, including fruit juices that are largely marketed to and consumed by families with young children.
“Controversy over arsenic in apple juice made headlines as the school year began when Mehmet Oz, M.D., host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” told viewers that tests he’d commissioned found 10 of three dozen apple-juice samples with total arsenic levels exceeding 10 parts per billion (ppb). There’s no federal arsenic threshold for juice or most foods, though the limit for bottled and public water is 10 ppb. The Food and Drug Administration, trying to reassure consumers about the safety of apple juice, claimed that most arsenic in juices and other foods is of the organic type that is “essentially harmless’,” reports Yahoo! Health.
In spite of the FDA’s claims, Consumer Reports has completed their own independent investigation comprised of tests of grape and apple juice, consumer poll, scientific analysis of federal health data and interviews with health and industry experts. The findings were as follows:
- Around 10% of juice samples had total arsenic levels which were in excess of federal drinking water standards. The majority of the arsenic was inorganic arsenic which is a known carcinogen
- One in four samples had lead levels above the FDA’s limit for bottled water of 5 ppb.
- No federal limit exists for lead in juice drinks!
- Grape and apple juice are a major source of dietary exposure to arsenic.
- Thirty-five percent of children aged five and younger drink more juice than is recommended by pediatricians.
- Minute Maid, Mott’s, Gerber, Welch’s and Great Value (Walmart) are among the brands found to contain arsenic, lead or both.
These findings are particularly alarming as scientific evidence continues to suggest that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead – even at lower levels than accepted water standards – can cause serious health complications. As a result, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports – Consumers Union – is urging the FDA to enact standards for lead and arsenic in apple and grape juice. The scientists on the Consumers Union team would ultimately like to see the arsenic level for juice set at 3 ppb and the lead standard at least level with bottled water at 5 ppb.
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