Getting to the Core of the Issue: Apple Juice and Arsenic
By By Donald Zink, Ph.D., Senior Science Advisor, FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
As a parent and grandparent myself, I understand the concern over recent reports that arsenic has been found in apple juice, especially since it is a staple in many children’s daily diets.
We here at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are familiar with the issue of arsenic being found in certain food and beverage products, but I realize that hearing this may be new to you. I would like to take the time to make sure you understand why it is there, how it got there and if you should be concerned.
Why is there arsenic in fruit juice products?
Arsenic is present in the environment as a naturally occurring substance and as a result of contamination from human activity, such as from the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers. It is found in water, air, food and soil.
There are two types of arsenic: organic and inorganic. The inorganic forms of arsenic are the harmful forms, while the organic forms of arsenic are essentially harmless. Because both forms of arsenic have been found in soil and ground water, small amounts may be found in certain food and beverage products, including fruit juices and juice concentrates.
What is the FDA doing to protect the public against arsenic in fruit juice products?
The FDA has been testing for arsenic contamination in juice products for several years as part of FDA programs that look for harmful substances in food. We have been aggressively testing samples of both domestic and imported fruit juices and juice concentrates, and have not found evidence that juice is unsafe for consumers young or old.
I have heard reports of test results showing high levels of arsenic in apple juice products. Are they true?
Unless we can determine that the test methods used were for inorganic arsenic and that the method was accurate and properly performed, we are not able to specifically address the test results. It is important to remember that test results for total arsenic do not distinguish between the essentially harmless organic forms of arsenic and the harmful inorganic forms of arsenic. It would be inappropriate to draw conclusions about the safety of a product based on the total arsenic level.
When the FDA wants to determine if a food has unsafe levels of arsenic, we test the food specifically for the harmful, inorganic forms of arsenic. It is common to test for total arsenic as a quick and easy way of seeing how much arsenic is in the sample. However, a total arsenic test does not tell us how much inorganic arsenic is in the sample. In fact, organic arsenic can make up the bulk of total arsenic in some foods. If you want to know if there are harmful amounts of arsenic in the sample, you must test specifically for inorganic arsenic.
Does the FDA have a response to the information recently reported on the Dr. Oz Show?
The FDA is aware of the episode of the Dr. Oz Show that aired on Sept. 12, 2011, where test results for arsenic in apple juice were discussed. The FDA has reviewed the test results performed by EMSL Analytical, Inc., on behalf of the Dr. Oz Show, and we can confirm that the results that were revealed are for total arsenic. The results do not distinguish between the essentially harmless organic forms of arsenic and the harmful inorganic forms of arsenic. Therefore, these results cannot be used to determine whether there is an unsafe amount of arsenic in the juice tested by the Dr. Oz Show.
Did the FDA test any of the samples tested by the Dr. Oz Show?
On Sept. 10-11, 2011, the FDA completed laboratory analysis of the same lot of Gerber apple juice that was tested by the Dr. Oz. Show, as well as several other lots produced in the same facility. The FDA’s testing detected very low levels of total arsenic in all samples tested. These new results were consistent with the FDA’s results obtained in the FDA's routine monitoring program and are well below the results reported by the Dr. Oz Show. The FDA has concluded that the very low levels detected during our analysis are not a public health risk and the juice products are safe for consumption.
Are apple and other fruit juices safe to drink?
Yes. There is currently no evidence to suggest a public health risk from fruit juices, including apple juice.
Where can I get more information?
- FDA: Apple Juice is Safe To Drink http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm271394.htm
- Arsenic and Apple Juice: Questions and Answers http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm271595.htm
- Letters from FDA to The Dr. Oz Show Regarding Apple Juice and Arsenic http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm271746.htm
Excellent post. I want to thank you for this informative read, I really appreciate sharing this great post. Keep up your work….
Wow! Did anyone actually READ this article? Have a discussion about the safety of organoarsenic, not this. Dr. Oz didn't follow standard testing procedures and mislead the public to believe that the amount in the juice is the highly toxic form everyone fears. We should instead focus on whether the FDA should reduce the allowable levels of organically occurring arsenic.
To whom it concerns, I am writing about the arsenic that is found in our children drinks. I am just so shocked and discouraged about how you as a company that provides such a quality product for our country- but you don't test to see if its over limits on dangerous chemicals. You all should be a shame of yourself and I am passing the word on to all my friends and family to do just the same. Haven't we learned once that China is sending dangerous products to the country by putting lead in our kids toys that was dangerous levels and now ARSENIC. When are we going to put our foot down and do the job of protecting our country and our future????
My concern about importing foods from other countries is that they don't care about our safety codes, nor us, and the FDA doesn't seem concerned either. Which leads me to believe that we should stop buying any and all food products from foreign countries. If you have every travelved to China and watched people wash their food in the Yang Sea River you would be greatly concerned. We were on a cruise down the river and the ship in front of us spent a good part of the day washing the vegetables for the day in the brown, dirty water. Watch bar codes now, the codes tell you where it was processed, even if it was packaged in US. OUTSOURCING has created health problems. Only you can turn the tide by reading labels and codes and be willing to spend a little more for safe food for your family.
This would make an amazing screenplay and would probably make millions. It is disheartening and inconceivable that our government and an established group of professionals that was created for this very reason to ensure the american people are safe, be the very first to dispute this concern. Although if you think about it, for years we have taken perscription medication that has been approved by the FDA only to find out down the road that the medication was not safe and in fact killing the american people. And in regards to the FDA's response to Dr. Oz's show which aired on 9/14/2011 (by the way, Thank you Dr.Oz, I'm glad someone is looking out for us.) The FDA claims that the show was irresponsible and misleading, they claim that the arsenic in apple juice is mostly organic arsenic and not inorganic arsenic, blah, blah, blah. I don't care if it is organic or inorganic, I can't believe that any form is healthy and in fact the FDA's statements have all included the word "ESSENTIALLY" safe when they refer to the type of arsenic they test for and of course found lower levels, but of course they would find levels that were not of concern because there is no level of concern for apple juice, it has never been established. And frankly I would personally like to ask the FDA, would you drive a car that was "ESSENTIALLY" safe? Would you send your kids into a situation that was "ESSENTIALLY" safe? The American public better wake up and not back down this time. Think about it!!! Really!
It's clear that the FDA is willing to take chances with our lives and childrens lives. The food and drugs in this country are not safe because of the FDA. We would not have warnings on medications like avandia, chantix, actos, and all the the issues with listeria and salmonella. If the FDA actually was ethical these issues would not exist. Up until a few years ago hospitals were dumping medications into our water supply if they were expired. Now because someone has indicated it is a danger everyone is running around trying to figure out how to dispose of these drugs. Unethical people if you ask me. Love Cannal
The FDA should have set limits, especially if they are already testing apple juice. Instead the FDA has no limit which allows anyone to have any level of arsenic (organic or not) in apple juice and claim they are comply with the law and any set limits as there are none. The FDA had the option to be on the show and they chose not to. If they are correct with their statements it would have been in their interest to come on the show instead of just reply with letters. Is the FDA there to protect the public, or the corporations? My bet is they are there to protect the large corporations and I believe many of their actions show this.
can you believe our government decides these things for us.imports why? can we not grow own safe fruits and vegetables? this is unexceptable. WHAT HAPPENED TO MADE IN AMERICA?
I believe Dr. Oz raised a valid point. Should we trust these other countries to be as safe and meet the same standards we expect from products grown and produced in our own country. Asking these other countries to conduct their own safety steps is the wrong approach. Dr. Oz is right. The United States needs to conduct tests on the imports at a higher rate than 2 percent. And, what is wrong with setting a standard for arsenic (regardless of whether or not it is organic or inorganic) in juice and other food products? The FDA should set a standard for that. However, juice is not the only thing the FDA needs to take a look at. The FDA needs to test more of all food products being imported into our country (especially food products coming from China). I don't trust them, and I try to avoid these products. That's the other thing. Labeling on food products should be more specific and easier to locate. I try not to buy things that say "Distributed by ....). I prefer the product to say "Manufactured by..." or "Made by...and country of origin). I have a lot more to say on this matter; however, I will stop here.