This past year, I started writing a health and fitness column through Creators.com, titled “C-Force.” It is no surprise that in researching for that column, I’ve discovered repeat offenses of food and beverage tampering by the federal government. But arsenic in apple juice?
Dr. Oz received significant flak when he reported in September that “some of the best-known brands of apple juice contain arsenic.” Since then, however, Oz has been redeemed and his claims substantiated!
After Oz’s initial comments, Dr. Richard Besser, a 13-year veteran of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, publicly lambasted Oz and his warnings as “extremely irresponsible” and “fear-mongering” and equated them to yelling “‘Fire!’ in a movie theater.” Amid the public debate, the Food and Drug Administration tried to steady the apple cart by saying that consumption of apple juice “poses little or no risk.”
But just a few days ago, I watched a humbled Besser on “Good Morning America” recant his fury against Oz’s conclusions, saying instead that new studies have just confirmed arsenic is indeed in many popular apple juices.
ABC News reported that Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of popular brands of grape and apple juice sold in the U.S., including Welch’s, Minute Maid and Mott’s. The results revealed that 10 percent of the juices “had total arsenic levels greater than the FDA’s standard for drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb), while 25 percent of juices also had lead levels higher than the FDA’s bottled water limit of 5 ppb.”
Furthermore, data on arsenic in adult urine from the CDC demonstrated that men and women who drank apple or grape juice in a 24-hour period “had, on average, about 20 percent higher levels of total urinary arsenic than those subjects who did not.”
Consumer Reports went on to report that the arsenic tested and detected is inorganic and a human carcinogen. CR further explained that there is “mounting scientific evidence suggesting that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead even at levels below federal standards for water can result in serious health problems, especially for those who are exposed in the womb or during early childhood. FDA data and other research reveal that arsenic has been detected at disturbing levels in other foods as well.” So who wants organic or inorganic arsenic in his water, juice and food? (Oz further notes that though many say organic arsenic is safe, there is clear evidence that both forms are ultimately hazardous to our health.)
Tragically teetering on a huge U.S. health cover-up, the FDA posted eight “previously undisclosed test results” for apple juice samples from across the country that had arsenic levels that superseded even its own “level of concern” for inorganic arsenic. Two of those eight samples had an arsenic level of 27 ppb. One had a level of 42 ppb, and two others were at 45 ppb.
What’s even worse is that the samples were discovered in 2008. And we’re just finding out about them now? Such undisclosed elevated levels of arsenic give a whole new meaning to the saying, “Quit drinking the feds’ Kool-Aid!”
Strangely, the FDA has limits for arsenic in water (including bottled) but no such regulations on fruit juices. At the very least, the FDA should not allow more arsenic in apple juice than it allows in Americans’ drinking water. Until then, tides of arsenic will continue to flow from foreign produce fields into American bloodstreams. (If you want to weigh in on this issue, contact the FDA at FDA.gov or call 888-463-6332.)
Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, rightly delivered this staunch warning: “We’re concerned about the potential risks of exposure to these toxins, especially for children who are particularly vulnerable because of their small body size and the amount of juice they regularly consume.”
With apple juice lacing children’s cereals, snack bars and holiday party tables, we need to heed this countrywide health warning and blow the trumpet to our neighbors. The fact is that the U.S. is getting more and more of its fruits and vegetables from other countries, and many of them do not preclude or limit arsenic in their pesticides or even their water supplies as the U.S. does. Oz reported that apple concentrate comes from up to seven countries; 60 percent of it is imported from China alone.
I agree with Oz, Rangan and Consumer Reports; it’s best for consumers to reduce their exposure to these juices. CR is recommending, until this juice fiasco is remedied, that you not give any type of juice to infants younger than 6 months. Also, no more than 6 ounces daily should be given to children up to 6 years old, and older children should have no more than 12 ounces daily.
This is a perfect example of why my wife, Gena, and I and other health enthusiasts encourage everyone to buy local and organic, always, and, where it’s possible, to grow produce and juice it.
So let buyers beware! Poisonous apples are definitely not just being offered in fictional Snow White adventures.
If you want to be involved in an encouraging export this Christmas, ensure that more than 60,000 service members abroad receive Christmas care packages. Go to Give2TheTroops.org. Tell them Chuck sent you!