Please read this… for the health of your family, ellen
Q&A about Arsenic and Apple Juice
by Kimberly Lord Stewart (author of Eating Between the Lines, guest on Better Food Choices Radio)
If the recent Consumer Report study about arsenic in apple and grape juice leave you in a quandary about what to buy and whether there are safe juice options, consider this your one-stop source for no spin information on what to buy.
A few weeks ago, Dr. Oz entered the conversation when he independently tested apple juice samples for arsenic. The results were alarming, as some samples exceeded FDA limits for arsenic. But the television doctor’s tests were discredited because they did not distinguish between the two types of arsenic—organic and inorganic. The Consumer Reports study gives Dr. Oz’s concerns credibility, so here is what you need to know:
Q: What is organic and inorganic arsenic?Don’t confuse this with the same type of organic used in food production. Organic arsenic is naturally occurring arsenic in soil and ground water. There are two forms of organic arsenic that may pose health risks, according to FDA. Inorganic arsenic is a known carcinogen. Inorganic arsenic in water is considered a silent killer because it has no taste, no color or odor.
Inorganic arsenic was allowed in US until the 1970’s to combat the Colorado potato beetle, but even with the 40-year ban, it remains in the soil. A bigger concern is that more than 70% of apple juice concentrate consumed in this country is imported from China, where there is no regulation regarding inorganic arsenic. Other countries that import apple juice include Argentina, Brazil, Eastern Europe and South Africa, each with varying levels of regulations. For instance in the Consumer Reports study, Brazilian imported apple juice proved cleaner than juice from Argentina and China.
Q: What did the Consumer Reports study find? This recent Consumer Reports study found that among 88 samples of apple juice and grape juice, the levels of arsenic were notably higher than what is allowed in drinking water. The study specifically looked at the two type of arsenic, organic (the type that is naturally occurring) and inorganic (the type that comes from agricultural inputs and is considered carcinogenic. Even though none of the samples exceeded the FDA limits for arsenic in food for adults, the results are of particular concern for children’s health.
Q: How much arsenic is allowed in food and water?The juice industry is citing the study as of little concern because none of the results show that juice exceeds food standards, but FDA is relooking at the issue. Current regulations limit the amount of total arsenic in drinking water at 10 parts per billion (ppb) and 5 ppb for inorganic arsenic. FDA says they have a “level of concern” for arsenic levels above 23 ppb in food.
Q: Should I be concerned?Consumer’s Union (parent company of Consumer Reports) is calling for FDA to adjust the limits for apple juice to 3 ppb for arsenic and 5 ppb for lead. "We calculated that level so that if a child drank 4 to 6 ounces of juice daily, they would be under the daily limit of arsenic intake," Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, tells The Salt. "It would give them a one in 1000 risk for skin, bladder and lung cancer." Hansen says that 35% of children 5 and younger drink more juice than pediatricians recommend, which is why the limits need to be established for children.
The Juice Products Association says there is nothing to worry about. "Consumer Reports and other media outlets erroneously compare juice to the standards for drinking water. Juice is not water. To compare the trace levels of arsenic or lead in juice to the regulatory guidelines for drinking water is not appropriate because regulatory agencies have set lower thresholds for drinking water than for food and other beverages because people consume larger amounts of water."
Q: What is FDA doing about it?FDA will continue to test juices and juice concentrate and evaluate data provided by industry, consumer groups and government agencies, as well as data published in scientific literature. If the agency finds too much inorganic arsenic in any juice, it will take steps to remove that product from the market.
Q: As a parent, what can I do to limit my child’s exposure to arsenic in juices? Here are a few ways to protect your children from exposure to arsenic and lead in juices:
- Buy organic. Among all the samples tested by Consumer Reports, organic brands contained lower amounts of arsenic than other brands.
- Pay attention to Country of Origin. Brands from China and Argentina contained higher levels of inorganic arsenic than juice from the United States.
- Be brand savvy. One of the study’s most surprising results were the dramatic differences in arsenic levels among brands. For instance, Gerber baby apple juice had the highest levels of arsenic, while Juicy Juice had low levels.
- Dilute your child’s juice. Physicians recommend limiting juice intake regardless of concerns about arsenic, to limit sugar intake. So this latest arsenic study is another reason to limit your child’s apple juice consumption.
- Print out this list of brands that contain the highest and lowest levels of arsenic. PDF attached.
To learn more about food safety and food labeling issue like this on, read Kimberly Lord Stewart’s book, Eating Between the Lines, now available on ebook.