FDA Ponders Whether Apple Juice Is Slowly Giving You Cancer


Recently Dr. Oz whipped parents into a frenzy by reporting that apple juice contains dangerous levels of arsenic. The FDA fired back that America’s resident poop expert had flubbed his results by testing for both safe organic arsenic and harmful inorganic arsenic, and said issuing warnings about kids drinking juice was irresponsible. However, yesterday Consumer Reports released its own study that found apple juice and grape juice contain unacceptably high levels of arsenic, and suddenly the FDA’s decided that reexamining the amount of toxins allowed in juice is an excellent idea.

While organic arsenic just passes through the body, inorganic arsenic is a carcinogenic substance found in pesticides. Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of the juices from New York, New Jersey, and Connectcut and found that 10% had more arsenic than the FDA allows in drinking water, and 25% had more lead than the agency allows in bottled water. The organization notes that the FDA currently has no set limits for arsenic in fruit juices, though 23 parts per billion (ppb) is considered a “level of concern.” Supposedly the agency will retest a juice found to contain that much arsenic, because if it’s all the inorganic form it could be a dangerous. According to the Associated Press, the FDA has the power to seize juice that exceeds those levels, but it never has.

Consumer Reports suggests that it may be the FDA, not Dr. Oz, that’s flubbing data. Last month the agency posted test results from 70 juice samples, then a few weeks later eight more test results, all from juices well into the “level of concern” range, mysteriously appeared on its website. The FDA says this was a mistake and all the figures should have been released at the same time, but it also didn’t properly test all of the potentially dangerous samples.

Though the FDA still insists that fruit juices are totally safe, today representatives said they’re considering lowering the amount of arsenic that would be considered a “level of concern.” The government allows more arsenic in juice than in drinking water because it’s assumed that people are drinking more water, though juice is a staple in kids’ diets. Experts are concerned that if you drink a large amount of juice over many years — like, if your mom decided in the late ’80s that apple juice was extremely nutritious and fed it to you at basically every meal — you could have a dangerous amount of arsenic in your system. Or maybe not! Researchers really have no idea if kids are getting too much arsenic from juice. Molly Kile, a professor at Oregon State University who’s studied arsenic for a decade, says:

“It is unclear at this point whether or not the arsenic found in apple juice is safe or unsafe … And really the question is what do these low levels exposure of arsenic mean in terms of health and children’s health?”

For now, experts say kids shouldn’t be drinking more than 6 oz of juice a day anyway, and if parents really want to be cautious, they can rotate the brand they buy in case one of them has too much arsenic. It’s definitely reasonable to suggest parents should keep track of the juice brand they buy from week to weak, but you can’t expect the government to move all that fast when it’s figuring out if there are dangerous chemicals in kids’ food.

Consumer Reports Tests Juices For Arsenic And Lead [Consumer Reports]
FDA Examines Level Of Arsenic In Apple Juice [AP]

Image via Jiri Hera/Shutterstock.

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