Arsenic Levels in Apple Juice Get Closer Look From FDA

Federal regulators say they are going to take a closer look at arsenic levels in apple juice, following tests that found some products contain high amounts of the naturally-occurring carcinogen. 

In a consumer update released on Friday, the FDA announced that it is widening its look into apple juice arsenic and is currently testing 90 samples from various apple juice products.

The agency indicates that it will continue enhanced surveillance of the industry, looking at other juices and juice concentrates. However, apple juice from China appears to be getting particular scrutiny by the federal health regulators.

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There are currently no federal standard for arsenic in fruit juice and similar beverages. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a limit on arsenic in drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb), the FDA has failed to set a similar standard for beverages. However, the FDA says that it has been testing juice for arsenic levels for 20 years and is certain that they are, in general, safe.

The agency agreed to take a second look last month, after an independent investigation by Consumer Reports found high levels of arsenic in some apple juice and grape juice products.

Consumer Reports’s study focused specifically on inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, as opposed to the naturally-occurring organic arsenic found in some fruits. The research revealed that some widely used products had arsenic levels well above 10 ppb. One sample of Walgreen’s 100% Grape Juice, which tested the highest for arsenic out of 88 samples from 28 different apple juice and grape juice products, had 24.7 ppb.

Consumers Union, which is the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, is calling on the FDA to establish a 3 ppb arsenic limit for juice and a 5 ppb limit for lead. The group says that the limits are achievable, pointing out that 45% of the samples tested would have met such requirements.

In September, the FDA stated that it believed apple juice consumption posed little or no risk, but since then it has received eight apple juice test samples with total arsenic levels of up to 45 ppb. That, and other data the agency has obtained, has led the FDA to decide that arsenic levels in juice need further investigation, according to Consumer Reports.

In the consumer update, the FDA says it will work with the EPA to coordinate a review of a risk assessment of arsenic in food and the environment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a number of recommendations on the amount of juice children should drink. Those recommendations include:

  • Avoid giving infants under six months old any juice.
  • Limit the amount of juice consumed by children six years old and younger to a maximum of four to six ounces per day.
  • Limit the amount of juice given to children older than six to eight to 12 ounces per day.
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