Makers of apple and grape juice targeted in a Consumer Reports investigation into juice arsenic levels pushed back against the report Thursday, saying their juices are safe for the plethora of American children who drink it each day.
Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of 28 brands of apple juice and grape juice, and it reported that roughly 10 percent of samples had arsenic levels higher than 10 parts per billion, exceeding the federal threshold for arsenic levels in bottled water.
The samples with higher levels of arsenic content came from five brands: Apple & Eve, Great Value (Wal-Mart's brand) and Mott's for apple juice, and Walgreens and Welch's for grape juice.These leading brands are popular among children in the U.S.
Thirty-five percent of children aged 5 and younger drink juice in quantities exceeding pediatricians' recommendations, according to a poll conducted by Consumer Reports.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took notice. Stephanie Yao, a spokeswoman from the FDA's Office of Public Affairs, said in an email to International Business Times that the FDA will continue to evaluate all data from industry, consumer groups and other government entities to set new and additional limits for inorganic arsenic in fruit juice and apple juice.
We welcome the research that Consumer Reports has undertaken and look forward to reviewing the data that formed the basis for their story and their recommendations, Yao said in the email. FDA will continue to monitor the latest science and work with EPA and USDA to protect public health.
Arsenic is naturally occurring in water, air, food and soil in both organic and inorganic capacities. The FDA says that inorganic arsenic, the type usually present in pesticides, can cause cancer if it is taken in at high levels -- or at steady levels for a lengthy period of time.
Though the FDA's threshold for water stands at 10 parts per billion, the limit for apple juice is 23 parts per billion. But groups like the Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer reports, said levels should be reduced to three parts per billion.
A spokeswoman for Mott's stressed that in all of the nine samples surveyed by Consumer Reports, all of the company's levels remained well below the threshold of 23 parts per billion. Indeed, only one of those samples even exceeded the arsenic limit in water established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The ingredients used in our products are tested to ensure they meet all appropriate food and safety guidelines, the spokeswoman, Erma, who would not provide her last name, said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.
We are confident our products are fully compliant with established FDA standards and guidelines. We stand by the quality and safety of our Mott's products.
Two samples of Welch's grape juice measured above the arsenic limit. One measured 10.7 and another hit 12.4.
In a statement emailed to IBTimes, Welch's spokeswoman Karen Mitchell said both the company's grape and apple juices were within the FDA's arsenic and lead limits for juice. The statement emphasized the difference between arsenic levels in water versus juice, since levels of arsenic are naturally occurring even in fresh fruits.
Welch's and the juice industry looks to the scientists and toxicologists at the FDA to make science-based decisions about food safety that are in the best interest of public health, the statement read. Welch's added that the company adheres to FDA guidelines and juice products sold in the U.S. will continue to meet federal standards.
Apple & Eve had one sample that turned up a 10.5 arsenic rating. In an emailed statement, the company defended its juice in similar fashion to the other juice makers mentioned in the investigation.
All test results conducted by both Consumer Reports and by our own regularly-conducted testing of our raw materials and finished goods, by independent outside labs, show that Apple & Eve apple juice products fall significantly below the arsenic and lead guidance levels established by the FDA for juice, Rebecca Ambers, Apple & Eve spokeswoman, wrote in the statement.
The FDA has evaluated and continues to review scientific data to determine levels that are safe in food and beverages. Apple & Eve products are in full compliance with FDA food safety regulations and guidelines.
The FDA's stance Thursday marks a shift from the near past. Last September, talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz reported results of his own study on apple juice on his television show. The FDA called his report irresponsible because he only tested total arsenic levels and didn't account for separation between organic and inorganic.
Consumer Reports did note the limits of its own investigation. It called the study a spot check, because of the low amount of total samples from only three states (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) and the wide variations on samples from single brands.
But its investigation falls in line with other studies and reports, including the one from Oz in September and a comprehensive analytical report from the FDA updated on Nov. 21.
Consumer Union spokeswoman Melissa Valentino said CU has had at least two conversations with the FDA in recent months about arsenic levels in juices. The recommended level of 3 parts per billion is reasonable, she said, because 41 percent of Consumer Reports' samples did meet that threshold.
We're delighted they're considering a standard, Valentino said of the FDA. It's definitely a step in the right direction.