A while back, FoodFacts.com ran a blog post regarding a report that Dr. Oz released regarding arsenic and its presence in apple juice in amounts that could be potentially dangerous to humans. If you remember, the FDA took to the media to fight back against Dr. Oz’s findings. They claimed that organic arsenic is naturally in our air, water, organic soil, and inorganic soil. They claim that Dr. Oz measured for the total level of arsenic, rather than inorganic vs. organic levels of arsenic. Inorganic arsenic is the type which is likely to cause harmful effects. Dr. Oz’s study did not separate out measurements of inorganic and organic arsenic. The FDA said that it was organic arsenic which that was seen in the study. According to the FDA that would make the arsenic in apple juice inconsequential and Dr. Oz’s study just as inconsequential. (As a note, there are a variety of conflicting opinions about the actual safety of organic arsenic.)
Consumer Reports, however has just released its own study showing that the apple and grape juice our kids may be drinking can, in fact have arsenic levels high enough to increase their risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. In fact, a full 10 percent of the juices tested by the magazine had arsenic levels higher than what is allowed in water by the FDA. The findings in this new report echo the study commissioned by Dr. Mehmet Oz in September of 2011. The FDA was not happy with Dr. Oz’s findings and deemed the study “extremely irresponsible”. Sorry, FDA … but it doesn’t look as though Dr. Oz was the extremely irresponsible party here, at least not at this juncture.
The Consumer Reports study tested 88 samples of 28 apple and 3 grape juices sold around the nation. Included in the test were the popular brands like Minute Maid, Welch’s and Tropicana. Five samples of apple juice and four of grape juice had total arsenic levels exceeding the 10 parts per billion (ppb) federal limit for bottled and drinking water. That brands of juice with at least one sample testing above the 10 ppb mark were Apple & Eve, Great Value, Mott’s, Walgreens and Welch’s.
The brands that scored the lowest arsenic levels were: Welch’s Pourable Concentrate 100% Apple Juice, America’s Choice Apple Juice, Tropicana 100% Apple Juice and Red Jacket Orchards 100% Apple Juice.
Most of the arsenic found in the samples was inorganic (that would be the kind of arsenic universally acknowledged as dangerous). It’s worth noting that although FDA guidelines for water are no more than 10 ppb of inorganic arsenic, the agency standard for juices is higher, at 23 ppb. The level is allowed to be higher because they have assumed that people will consume more water than juice in the course of a normal day. That’s a reasonable assumption — for adults.
Consumer Reports also tested the samples for lead. The results were similar to arsenic. Using the threshold for lead for bottled water, since there is no standard for juice, research revealed that about 25% of the samples had elevated levels of lead (more than 5 ppb).
Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports has called on the FDA to set arsenic and lead standards for apple and grape juice. It is recommending 5 ppb for lead and 3 ppb for arsenic and has cited evidence that long-term exposure to arsenic and lead can lead to serious health problems including lung, bladder and skin cancer, increased risks of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Seems as though Dr. Oz knew what he was talking about back in September. It’s unfortunate the FDA assumed otherwise.
FoodFacts.com will stay on top of this issue and keep you posted as to whether there is any movement by the FDA to change its current standards. We hope they can acknowledge that the majority of apple juice and grape juice in our food supply is, in fact, being consumed by children. We need to understand that one of our most serious responsibilities as a civilized nation is the safety of our kids.