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Consumer Reports Finds Arsenic in Apple Juice

The controversy over arsenic in apple juice is brewing again.  Fears over arsenic in juice first reached the headlines in Dr. Mehmet Oz, the host of "The Dr. Oz Show," told viewers in September 2011 that the results of tests that he had commissioned revealed that  10 of the three dozen apple-juice sampled had total arsenic levels exceeding 10 parts per billion (ppb).  There is no federal arsenic threshold for juice or most foods, but the limit for bottled and public water is 10 ppb. After Dr. Oz revealed his results, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried to reassure consumers about the safety of apple juice, claiming that most arsenic in juices and other foods is of the organic type that is "essentially harmless."

But additional data now supports the original claims of arsenic in apple juice.  An investigation conducted by Consumer Reports of apple and grape juice found that:

  • Approximately 10 percent of the juice samples, from five brands, had total arsenic levels that exceeded federal drinking-water standards of 10 ppb, most of which was inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen.

  • One in four samples had lead levels higher than the FDA's bottled-water limit of 5 ppb. (There are currently no federal limits for lead levels in juice, only water.)

  • Apple and grape juice make up a significant source of dietary exposure to arsenic.

  • Thirty-five percent of children 5 years of age and younger drink juice in quantities that exceed pediatricians' recommendations.

  • Mounting scientific evidence suggests that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead - even at levels that are below the limits for water - can result in serious health problems.

  • Inorganic arsenic has been detected at alarming levels in other foods.

The reports have been particularly confusing and controversial since arsenic comes in two forms - organic, which is relatively harmless, and inorganic, which is can be particularly harmful and is often found in pesticides.  The FDA recently stated in a letter to the "Dr. Oz Show" and consumer groups that it is "seriously considering setting guidance or other level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice."

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