Arsenic has made its way into the limelight once again, this time in response to a Dartmouth study which found high arsenic levels in a wide variety of organic foods including baby formulas, energy bars, and energy shot drinks. Study researchers urged the FDA to begin to regulate safe levels of arsenic in foods. As of now, they only regulate safe amounts in drinking water.
Congress is hearing this call loud and clear and most recently, Reps Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sponsored a bill calling for proper arsenic and lead regulation in food products. Pallone appeared at a New Brunswick preschool where he held a press conference on H.R. 3984: Arsenic Prevention and Protection From Lead Exposure in Juice Act of 2012.
Arsenic Prevention Bill
The bill would require that the FDA establish safe levels of lead and arsenic in fruit juice drinks and other food products, which can cause brain development issues in kids. Pallone and DeLauro both sent a letter to the FDA strongly urging action.
“We write today to strongly urge you to implement enforceable standards for the maximum allowable levels of heavy metals, including arsenic, in foods and beverages regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as soon as possible. Setting a standard for this known carcinogen is sensible given that food is a main exposure to arsenic for many people, including children," the letter said.
High arsenic levels in apple juice first brought this lack of regulation into focus. 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.
In December, The FDA repeatedly claimed that apple juice is safe. Michael Landa, acting director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said that "FDA monitoring has found that total arsenic levels in apple juice are typically low." But even still, the agency is considering setting safe levels of inorganic arsenic found in juice and lawmakers are hoping that this bill will push them to act.