Don’t Drink the Juice!

December 1, 2011

Arsenic in the apple juice?!  Say it isn’t so!

There have been recent reports on arsenic in fruit juices in recent weeks, prompted first by the Dr. Oz Show. The Dr. Oz  Show recently tested samples of Gerber’s Apple Juice, which showed that the apple juice did indeed contain arsenic. The FDA states that they also tested the same lot of juices as the Dr. Oz Show, and their laboratory analysis showed that arsenic was present in very low levels, and in fact, levels much lower than what Dr. Oz reported and in amounts that are considered safe for drinking.1

Since this episode, the public concern and uproar over arsenic in our fruit juices has spiraled out of control, especially with the November 30th, 2011  publishing on arsenic levels by Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org.)2

 S0- What is the deal with Arsenic in our fruit juice? And should you care? You may even want to know if the doctors at Naturopathic Family Medicine care?   Scroll down to the Q & A section below for quick answers

First, I think it is important to know that Arsenic is allowed by the FDA to be present in our foods and juices. Why?! Here is the scoop on Arsenic:

Arsenic is a naturallyoccurring substance in our environment. There are two types of arsenic: organic and inorganic. The inorganic forms are the bad forms- more specifically- the deadly forms in high enough doses- and are present as a result of human pollution. There were also arsenic-based pesticides in use in the United States up until the 1970’s that certainly play a part in the levels of arsenic now present in our soil and water. Organic arsenic is less worrisome than inorganic, and both kinds of arsenic are present in our soil and ground water, and therefore are present in our food and water. 1

Both the organic and inorganic forms of arsenic have been found in fruit juices. Essentially, this is unavoidable, since arsenic is in our ground water. Because of this, the FDA has deemed that low” levels of arsenic in juices are acceptable. But there is no set standard for arsenic in fruit juice, meaning that there is  no maximum allowable amount of arsenic in fruit juice that would then result in that product, or batch of product, being pulled from the grocery store shelves. The decision to not set a standard is based on the FDA’s research that concluded that if “arsenic occurs [in fruit juices], it almost always does so at very low levels.” Almost always? That sounds a little unsettling to me. The FDA is considering setting a standard, but has not yet done so. There is a standard for arsenic levels in bottled water, set at 10 parts per billion. 1

The November 30th Consumer Reports article on arsenic in juice found that ten percent of store-bought apple and grape juice samples have more arsenic than what is allowable for bottled water (10 ppb.) AND…. 25% of these juice samples have more lead that is considered allowable in bottled water. These levels are far lower than what would prompt concern for further testing of the fruit juices by the FDA, but the consumer advocacy group states that the FDA should be concerned. A poll published by the advocacy group demonstrated that over one-third of children 5 years of age and younger drink more juice than pediatricians recommend.2 Since children are at very vulnerable during these highly important development years, children are at an increased risk for developing side effects and chronic health conditions related to heavy metal toxicity.

The consumer group also surveyed evidence, using CDC collected data, to discover that people who reported drinking apple or grape juice have “20% higher levels of arsenic in [their] urine” compared to people who did not drink juice.1

So…. what should you DO with ALL this information? 

Questions with Bottom-Line Answers:

Is NFM concerned about these arsenic and lead levels? Yes.

Should you be concerned enough to NOT give your child fruit juices? Yes, and for more reasons than this arsenic problem. Fruit juice is empty calories, high in added sugars (both natural and artificial), and essentially fake nutrition. In other words, there is no nutritional value or benefit in feeding your child juice. In fact, excessive juice is often a reason for growth deficiency, failure to thrive, and malnutrition in children. Furthermore, sugar depresses the immune system. It causes a decreased or delayed immune response which may to contribute to your child becoming more sick more often.

Does organic fruit juice contain arsenic and lead? Yes. Contamination is unavoidable because these metals are found in the soil and ground water.

How can I find juices without arsenic and lead? Good Question. I don’t really know. My best advice would be to know where your juice and fruit is coming from and to talk about this concern with growers, farmers, and distributors, if possible. You may be able to find out information about the soil and water in the area where your food is coming from.

What can I do about this? Strictly limit or avoid fruit juices in children under 5 years of age, and make juice a special treat for older children.

Should we get tested? It’s probably not necessary to get your levels of arsenic and lead testing, with the exception that all children around 12 months of age are recommended to have a routine blood test to screen for lead toxicity. If you are concerned about  excessive levels of arsenic and lead in your or your child’s body, schedule an appointment with your physician at NFM. We can discuss the need for testing for heavy metals at that time.

1. FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration Website. Questions & Answers: Apple Juice and Arsenic. Published Nov 30, 2011. Accessed Dec 1, 2011.  http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm271595.htm

2. DeNoon, D.J. Medscape News Medical Students Website. Report: Arsenic in Apple, Grape Juice. Published Nov 30, 2011. Accessed Dec 1, 2011. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/754551

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