WASHINGTON – After more than a year of public pressure from consumer advocates and concerned parents, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday that it will set new limits on the level of arsenic allowed in apple juice, matching those currently permitted in drinking water.
Any apple juice containing more than 10 parts per billion could face removal from the market and its manufacturers could risk legal action, the agency said. FDA officials emphasized that the agency has been monitoring arsenic levels in apple juice for decades and that the overwhelming number of products on the market already meet such a standard.
The issue gained national attention in September 2011 in the wake of a report on “The Dr. Oz Show,” in which host Mehmet Oz told viewers that various brands of apple juice tested by the show contained total arsenic levels that were too high. The FDA chided Oz at the time for not drawing a distinction between organic and inorganic arsenic. Both can occur naturally throughout the environment, but only the inorganic form is a known carcinogen.
Months later, Consumer Reports published the results of its own study, in which dozens of samples of apple and grape juices from stores in the Northeast showed elevated levels of the toxic form of arsenic. Those findings led Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, to pressure the FDA to lower acceptable arsenic levels in foods.
Questions of arsenic aside, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that parents should encourage children to eat whole fruit instead of sugar-laden juices, saying that “it is not necessary to offer children any juice to have a well-balanced, healthy diet.”