Arsenic in apple juice: FDA proposes a lower limit, amid consumer concern

Arsenic in apple juice would be limited to the same level as arsenic in drinking water, under a proposed rule from the US Food and Drug Administration. FDA analysis of dozens of apple juice samples found 95 percent already meet that standard.

Amy Sancetta/AP/File
An apple and a pitcher of apple juice are posed together in Moreland Hills, Ohio, Sept. 15, 2011.

The US Food and Drug Administration responded to concerns from consumer groups Friday by limiting the amount of arsenic in apple juice to the same level currently permitted in drinking water.

"Overall the supply of apple juice is very safe and does not represent a threat to public health," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said. "We decided to put forward this proposed action level to give guidance to industry and to assure ongoing safety and quality."

The FDA faced pressure for more than a year from groups worried about the contaminant’s effects on children. In particular, reports by Dr. Mehmet Oz of the "Dr. Oz Show" and Consumer Reports raised concerns with parents that the levels of arsenic could lead to deadly diseases later in life.

The FDA has tested arsenic in apple juice for at least 20 years and has long said the levels are not dangerous to consumers, in particular the small children who favor the fruit juice (second only to orange juice in popularity, according to industry groups).

But the agency issued a tougher stance with its announcement Friday. Under the new regulation, apple juice containing more than 10 parts per billion could be removed from the market and companies could face legal action. FDA officials stressed that the vast majority of juices on the market are already below the threshold and say they are taking a very cautious approach.

An FDA analysis of dozens of apple juice samples last year found that 95 percent were below the new level.

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, last year called for a limit as low as 3 parts per billion. While the FDA didn't go that far, the group still praised the agency for taking action.

"While we had proposed a lower limit, we think this is a perfectly good first step to bring apple juice in line with the current drinking water limits," said Urvashi Rangan, the group's director for consumer safety.

The FDA decision represents in entrance into some new territory: While the Environmental Protection Agency sets arsenic limits for drinking water, there have never been similar standards for most foods and beverages. The FDA is also considering new limits on arsenic in rice, which is thought to have higher levels than most foods because it is grown in water on the ground, optimal conditions for absorbing the contaminant.

Arsenic is found in the environment as a naturally occurring mineral and as a result of contamination from industrial activity and pesticides that used to be allowed in agriculture. When ingested in very high doses over a short period of time, the chemical can increase the risk for certain cancers, say medical experts.

Government officials and consumer advocates agree that drinking small amounts of apple juice isn't harmful. The concern involves the effects of drinking large amounts of juice over long periods of time.

The FDA will take comments on the draft regulation for 60 days before making it binding.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Arsenic in apple juice: FDA proposes a lower limit, amid consumer concern
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/USA-Update/2013/0712/Arsenic-in-apple-juice-FDA-proposes-a-lower-limit-amid-consumer-concern
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe