High Levels of Arsenic Found in Some Apple Juice and Grape Juice: Study

The amount of arsenic found in some fruit juice exceeds the amount considered safe for drinking water, according to the findings of a new study. 

Consumer Reports released the results of an investigation into arsenic levels in fruit juices on November 30, finding that the 10 percent of juices tested had more arsenic than what is legally allowed in drinking water.

Part of the problem, Consumer Reports noted, is that there are no arsenic standards for juice and similar beverages.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a limit on arsenic in drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb). Some arsenic occurs naturally in some fruits, but there is a type of arsenic known as inorganic arsenic that does not. Inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen. Even the 10 ppb level has been hotly contested by health experts, many of whom say it should be higher.

The Consumer Reports study tested 88 samples from 28 different apple juice and grape juice products, and found that 10 percent of the samples tested had arsenic levels exceeding 10 ppb, most of that arsenic was inorganic. The group also tested the samples for lead, and found that 25% exceeded 5 ppb, the legal lead limit for bottled water.

High levels of lead can damage the developing brain of an unborn or young child, causing neurological problems, learning disabilities and lowered intelligence, as well as seizures and death in some cases.

Two samples of Walgreens 100% Grape Juice had 24.7 and 17.4 ppb of arsenic. Both those samples also had high levels of lead, with 10.1 and 14.7 ppb respectively. Another Walgreens 100% Grape Juice sample had 9.71 ppb arsenic, under the drinking water standard, but 15.9 ppb of lead; more than three times the amount of lead allowed in bottled water.

Another juice that tested consistently high for arsenic was Walmart’s Great Value 100% Apple Juice. Three samples tested had arsenic levels of 13.9 ppb, 11.5 ppb and 10.1 ppb. Welch’s 100% Grape Juice also tested high, with two samples that were found to have 12.4 ppb and 10.7 ppb of arsenic.

The juices with consistently low levels of arsenic included Juicy Juice 100% Apple Juice Non Frozen Concentrate, and Red Jacket Orchards 100% Fuji Apple Juice Never From Concentrate (refrigerated). No samples from those two juices ever exceeded 2 ppb for arsenic. Both were also below the bottled water standards for lead, with Red Jacket Orchards juice registering less than 1 ppb of lead in every sample.

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.

The FDA informed Consumer Reports earlier last month that it is considering arsenic standards for juice, but is still collecting data to determine where those limits should be set. 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, Consumer Reports stated.

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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