A new study of apple and grape juices by Consumer Reports has found high levels of arsenic in some brands, The Today Show reported yesterday. The new findings follow a widely-discussed and controversial study released in September by Dr. Mehmet Oz, in which he accused apple juice makers of allowing higher levels of arsenic than are allowed by federal regulators.
Ten percent of the 88 juice samples tested by Consumer Reports were found to have detectable arsenic at levels higher than the 10 parts per billion (ppb) allowed by the Food & Drug Administration. Welch's Pourable Concentrate 100% Apple Juice had the lowest arsenic level (1.1-4.3 total arsenic ppb), and America's Choice Apple, Tropicana 100% Apple, and Red Jacket Orchards 100% Apple also had low levels.
The new study continues a debate over whether there is a difference in health risk between organic and inorganic arsenic compounds. Dr. Oz's study had reported "total arsenic" counts, rather than distinguishing between the two types of compounds, as the FDA does. Inorganic arsenic is known to raise the risk that a person will develop cancer or other chronic health problems. But Consumer Reports says that there are questions about the safety or organic compounds as well, writing, "Use of organic arsenic in agricultural products has caused concern. For instance, the EPA in 2006 took steps to stop the use of herbicides containing organic arsenic because of their potential to turn into inorganic arsenic in the soil and contaminate drinking water."
The FDA responded to the article with a statement saying the agency was considering changing or tightening its standard for allowable arsenic in juices:
"We welcome the research that Consumer Reports has undertaken and look forward to reviewing the data that formed the basis for their story and their recommendations," the agency noted. "We continue to find the vast majority of apple juice tested to contain low levels of arsenic, including the most recent samples from China. For this reason, FDA is confident in the overall safety of apple juice consumed in this country. By the same token, a small percentage of samples contain elevated levels of arsenic. In response, FDA has expanded our surveillance activities and is collecting additional data"
Nutritionists urge parents to limit the amount of juice their children consume, not only because of contamination concerns, but because of the high calories contained in the drinks. Parents should offer their children water or milk to drink, and whole fruits as snacks.
Image: Apples and apple juice, via Shutterstock