Daily Diet: Consumer Reports on Arsenic-Contaminated Apple Juice

SUMMARY: Consumer Reports has released a report finding high levels of arsenic in apple and grape juice, both common and plentiful drinks that we give our children.
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Consumer Reports has released a report finding high levels of arsenic in apple and grape juice, both common and plentiful drinks that we give our children. It’s not the first time that the consumer organization has tested and reported on such contamination in beverages. Last July, CR reported on protein drinks that had heavy metal contamination, including that of arsenic.

This is not the first time that Consumer Reports has tackled the juice-arsenic connection. Last September, they released an article on the Health section of their website, “Debate Grows Over Arsenic in Apple Juice,” noting research done by the University of Arizona in 2009 and the nonprofit Coming Alongside, in conjunction with the St. Petersburg Times, in 2010.

Both of those reports found arsenic levels in apple juice up to nearly triple the drinking water limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb). They also referenced the results of a sample tested by the Empire State Consumer Project earlier this summer, which found 55 ppb.

Ultimately, Consumer Reports conducted their own testing, finding that the levels of arsenic in many juices are high enough to increase the risk of serious disease. Exposure to arsenic, particularly repeated exposure, can be harmful to your health and symptoms can be delayed for years. Potential health issues include diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers,

Ten percent of the juices tested by CR were found to have arsenic levels in excess of that which is allowed by the FDA in drinking water. According to Urvashi Rangan, director of safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, “[This] underscores the need for a standard to be set in juices.”

Eighty-eight juice samples were tested, including popular brands Minute Maid, Welch’s, and Tropicana. Results found that some brands were in excess of 23 ppb, more than 100 percent over the allowable limit in water.

In a report late last summer on its website, the FDA said that while small amounts of arsenic can be found in some food and beverages, including apple juice, it has confidence in the safety of apple juice and continues to monitor it. However, this new report by one of America’s heavy hitters may change their tune, and one can only hope.

The contaminants likely come from pesticides used in the growing of apples and grapes, not from the water supply used to dilute concentrated juices. While there is strict regulation in the United States on the use of pesticides, such is not the case in China where two-thirds of our apple juice is manufactured, primarily into concentrate. (Hmm…seems like a good reason to buy American!)

It can be mighty tricky finding the origin of the juice you buy. While manufacturers are required to label where the juice—concentrate or not—comes from, it is often inconspicuous and hard to find/read. The text is often imprinted on the plastic bottle, rather than the label, and is in clear or white type, which can be difficult for the eye to see. (See samples of labels here.)

We recommend, to help both the American economy and your health, that you take the time to find and read the origin on foodstuffs and do your best to stick to products grown and manufactured in the United States.

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