FDA Responds: How Safe Are Arsenic Levels in Apple Juice?

Ilya Schurov/CC BY-SA 2.0

It was big news this week when Consumer Reports found excessively high levels of arsenic in apple and grape juice. The report found that after testing 88 brands of juice, 10 percent had higher levels than the federal drinking water standards and 25 percent had higher levels than the FDA’s bottled water drinking standards.

FDA Responds To Arsenic Fears

In a letter written to both Empire State Consumer Project and Food and Water Watch, two organizations advocating juice testing, the FDA vowed to continue monitoring imported juices and step up testing for juices sourced domestically.

Apple juice specifically came under fire after The Dr. Oz Show conducted an investigation which found high levels of arsenic in nationally known apple juice brands and then published the results online. The problem, according to The Dr. Oz Show, is that apple juice is made from concentrate and much of that concentrate is sourced from aboard.

John Laumer wrote that much of the concentrate comes from China where it is sent to U.S. bottlers. China's apple concentrate has high levels of arsenic because of the exceedingly high air pollution from coal and because they may still be using arsenic as a pesticide. Though the practice was banned in the U.S. officially in 1988.

Considering Testing Arsenic Levels

The FDA has repeatedly claimed that apple juice is still safe. Michael Landa, acting director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has said that "FDA monitoring has found that total arsenic levels in apple juice are typically low." The FDA also said their testing was inconsistent with outside organization testing, specifically mentioning Empire State Consumer Project.

But even still, the agency is considering setting safe levels of inorganic arsenic found in juice, both of which Empire State Consumer Project and Food and Water Watch have been lobbying hard for, a story Rachel reported on last July.

"Our next safety scare could come compliments of China," said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter. "The FDA has a responsibility to focus its attention on imported foods, especially those that are most often eaten by children. Setting a limit for arsenic in apple juice would be a good place to start."

Inorganic and Organic Arsenic

To be clear, there are two types of arsenic: organic and inorganic. The inorganic arsenic is harmful while the FDA contends that "the organic forms of arsenic are essentially harmless." Both forms have been found in ground water and soil, which is the entry point into our food supply. Please read John's extensive reporting on how arsenic gets into apple juice.

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Tags: Food Safety

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