Remember back in September when Dr. Mehmet Oz launched into near hysterics on his talk show warning against arsenic in apple juice? And remember when the US Food and Drug Administration told us the show was a bunch of baloney since the agency’s own testing found acceptable levels of arsenic in juice?
Well, it turns out, Dr. Oz may have been correct in airing his concerns. Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of apple juice and grape juice — purchased in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York — and found that 10 percent of the samples had total arsenic levels that exceeded federal drinking-water standards of 10 parts per billion (ppb), and 25 percent of the samples had lead levels higher than the FDA’s bottled-water limit of 5 ppb.
Most of the arsenic detected in the tests was the harmful inorganic type, known to raise the risk of cancer at very high levels.
Unlike with drinking water which is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the government hasn’t set a strict limit on the amount of arsenic that juice can contain. The FDA says it tests juice products regularly to make sure they aren’t above 23 parts per billion of total arsenic, the level they define as safe. If they do, the agency re-tests the product to see how much inorganic arsenic it contains.
“Monitoring has found that total arsenic levels in apple juice are typically low,’’ the FDA said in this November 21 letter sent to two consumer advocacy groups. Of 160 apple juice samples collected by the FDA during the past six years, almost 88 percent had less than 10 ppb total arsenic, and 95 percent had total arsenic levels below 23 ppb total arsenic, the letter stated.
The FDA added that it was “seriously considering’’ setting a limitation on the amount of inorganic arsenic that can be allowed in apple juice and was now “collecting all relevant information to evaluate and determine an appropriate level.’’
Until that’s accomplished, Consumer Reports advises parents to limit the amount of juice their child drinks to reduce exposure to arsenic. The group pointed to recommendations issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics on limiting juice consumption as smart guidelines to follow. (The AAP made those a decade ago in an effort to prevent obesity and tooth decay.)
— Avoid giving infants under six months any type of juice.
— Limit juice consumption to no more than four to six ounces per day in children up to six years old.
— Older children should drink no more than eight to 12 ounces a day.
— If necessary, dilute juice with water to keep consumption down.