More than a few studies have already shown that apple juice, a lunchbox staple, contains arsenic in quantities a parent would prefer not to have their child ingesting. Last week, just in time for the start of the school year, Dr. Mehmet Oz raised the issue again on his syndicated TV show. The FDA promptly responded that apple juice is safe, countering Dr. Oz’s claims by sending two letters to the producers of Dr. Oz’s show, says the Los Angeles Times.
On his website, Dr. Oz says that
“Other countries may use pesticides that contain arsenic, a heavy metal known to cause cancer. After testing dozens of samples from three different cities in America, Dr. Oz discovered that some of the nation’s best known brands of apple juice contain arsenic.”
As Care2 blogger Jaelithe J. has written, arsenic is poisonous to humans in high doses. It is a known carcinogen and has been “implicated as a developmental toxin,” with in utero studies showing that exposure to arsenic can lead to birth defects in animals. While arsenic is a natural substance found at “very low levels in soil, plants and drinking water,” larger quantities can find their way into our food via various chemical pesticides. In particular, fruits and vegetables in China have been found to be contaminated with arsenic due to China’s insufficient controls of pesticide use and the environment — and many US distributors of apple juice and apple sauce “source some or all of their apples from Chinese orchards,” as Jaelithe writes.
So it’s hardly a wonder that consumers have concerns about what else is in the apple juice besides, well, apples.
The Environmental Protection Agency limits arsenic in drinking water to 10 parts per billion. Dr. Oz‘s study found 36 ppb in apple juice. Noting that it has been monitoring and testing apple juice for years, the FDA says its own tests of juice from the very same lot Dr. Oz tested had arsenic levels at 2 to 6 ppb.
That’s a big difference. One reason for the varied test results is due to how arsenic levels are measured: Dr. Oz says that he tests for “total arsenic amount,” which sounds like the sort of information that any parent, or consumer, would want to know. But as the Los Angeles Times points out:
Arsenic occurs naturally in foods in organic and inorganic forms, [the FDA] noted in one of the letters, and only certain levels of inorganic levels are toxic. “We have advised you that the test for total arsenic DOES NOT [all caps is theirs] distinguish inorganic arsenic from organic arsenic.”
At issue, says the FDA, is the amount of “inorganic arsenic” from, for instance, pesticides.
Photo by Amy Loves Yah
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