The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, is setting a new limit for the level of arsenic content allowed in apple juice that would be the same level for the contaminant permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency in drinking water.
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today proposed an “action level” of 10 parts per billion, or ppb, for inorganic arsenic in apple juice,” FDA said in a news release on Friday.
The move, which is a first for the agency in setting an official permissible limit for arsenic levels in food based on scientific study, comes nearly two years after studies pointed out that toxic arsenic in apple juice is much higher than the safe levels permitted in food, triggering a public outcry.
FDA has been monitoring the arsenic content in fruit juices for two decades and earlier had permitted 23 parts per billion levels for arsenic in apple juice. However, FDA said Friday that the current limits are set based on the agency’s own research and testing conducted in the last two years, and account for a lifetime's exposure to apple juice.
“While the levels of arsenic in apple juice are very low, the FDA is proposing an action level to help prevent public exposure to the occasional lots of apple juice with arsenic levels above those permitted in drinking water,” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.
The FDA also said the studies it conducted in the last year showed that 95 percent of the samples have total arsenic levels below the newly set limit of 10 ppb and all of the 94 samples were below 10 ppb for inorganic arsenic.
Earlier, the studies did not differentiate between organic and inorganic arsenic found in food. However, new studies conducted using better technology have helped the agency to test levels of the less toxic organic arsenic, and inorganic arsenic -- a carcinogenic form -- in apple juices.
“The proposed level of 10 ppb takes into account this sampling data plus a recently completed, peer-reviewed risk assessment of inorganic arsenic in apple juice conducted by FDA scientists,” the release said.
Inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, may be found in foods because it is present in the environment naturally or through the use of arsenic-containing pesticides, according to the FDA, and it is also “associated with skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and diabetes.”
The agency said it would accept public comments on the proposed action level and the risk assessment for 60 days.