Apple Juice and Arsenic: A Recent Story I Missed!

This past Saturday consisted of a day road trip to my Alma Mater University of Florida along with my husband and son T.A.  It was UF’s Orange & Blue spring exhibition game and basically a fun time for current students and alumni and their friend and families to hang out and say go Gators!  My son T.A. took it all in stride and even clapped in delight during the scrimmage.  However, it was dinner conversation that night with my old college roommate that affected me the most Saturday: she asked me if I’d seen the report from the St. Petersburg Times regarding the amounts of arsenic found in apple juice. What?

First, I needed to read the story written by Mr. Tom Marshall, dated March 14 and I’ve provided a link for you if you are interested as well from Florida’s St. Petersburg Times website:

The overview of this report is that the St. Petersburg Times decided to commission independent testing of apple juice at least 18 different  juice brands including Motts, Apple & Eve and Tree Top to name a few.  More than 1/4 of those apple juices tested reflected arsenic levels between 25 to 35 parts ber billion (ppb).  To give you and I a better explanation to compare that test result, the FDA since 2006 considers that the nation’s drinking water supply should not have more than 10 ppb of arsenic occurring.

I further discovered how ignorant I am, or perhaps how little I learned in chemistry as a teenager, because evidently arsenic is “naturally occurring” and there is no way to avoid it completely.  The same goes for arsenic in items such as our drinking water but the apple juice issue (and in the past other testing reports by others on pear and grape juice) is more sinister because the arsenic is actually applied in the groves as an ingredient in pesticide.  Great-so we parents have already become super-paranoid about all the poisons and pollutants in our food supply and then we learn that the brilliant farmers in not only China but even our own country have settled on arsenic as a deterrent rather than utilize better options.

China does happen to be supplying more than 60% of our apple juice concentrate at this time.  Other countries include Argentina, Turkey and ourselves.  Yet American control over the apple juice market happens to be less than a 1/5 of the market.  I gleaned from this article that the individual companies that produce and package the apple juice seem the ones who are responsible for testing the concentrate they receive from abroad.  Although there is one instance cited where the FDA did step in and alerted their border officials of incoming pear juice from China in 2008 only after it was Canada officials who tested and found that the juice contained between 28-32 ppb of arsenic.

If you’re wondering what our government, basically the FDA (food and drug administration) is doing or saying about this subject of arsenic levels in juice, this quote is a great summary:  ‘ “We don’t have any evidence at this point to say that we feel there’s a risk issue that you need to be mindful of,” said P. Michael Bolger, the Food and Drug Administration’s chief of chemical hazards assessment.’

Following talk of the 2008 Chinese pear juice incident at our neighboring border with Canada, Bolger then went on to say: ‘ “the FDA has found some apple juice samples with more than 25 ppb of arsenic following increased testing. But the average for those tests was 9 ppb. More evidence is needed to justify setting limits on arsenic in juice, Bolger said. “We’ve got to generate the appropriate information, because you can’t fly blind,” he said. “You have to have some good data to back it up.” ‘

Thankfully, the general consensus among scientists interviewed for this particular article did say that low levels of arsenic in our water and juices does not pose serious health threats.  Of course, if arsenic is showing up in higher levels consistently and as for our children who may drink a large quantity of juice, the arsenic rising in our body’s chemistry can contribute to cancerous conditions as well as hormonal changes, et cetera.

I invite to read this article if you have time and maybe even jump on for more information.  From what I can tell in the St. Petersburg piece, there isn’t a federal standard yet provided for our juice companies to follow regarding what levels of arsenic are safe.  Some companies use the water standard  of no more than 10 ppb of arsenic allowed, but I do believe if the government espouses to protect its nation’s food supply, then a juice regulation is required.

In the meantime, use your best judgement as a parent, you always make the right choices for your children so trust that.  If you feel better about watering down juice, your kid’s dentist will applaud you.  If you want to use more organic juice products just be aware that they all haven’t stopped using China-sourced apple juice concentrate and arsenic still can occur in soil years after it was used in an orchard. 

Hopefully, through parent-pressure, we can encourage the powers-that-be to nudge the FDA on this one.   And thank you to my old college roommate for alerting me on a recent story that I missed because I’m so busy like all of you mamas and papas!


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