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New bill would limit arsenic and lead in juices

Consumer Reports News: February 08, 2012 05:43 PM

A House bill introduced today aims to limit levels of arsenic and lead in fruit juices. When the bill was announced, the sponsors cited Consumer Reports’ investigation into the issue, which found high levels of arsenic and lead in the juices we tested.

While federal limits exist for arsenic and lead levels allowed in bottled and public drinking water, there are no limits defined for juices, a mainstay of many children’s diets, putting them at unnecessary risk for serious health problems, including several forms of cancer.

The proposed Apple-Juice Act of 2012 was introduced by Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and calls on the Food and Drug Administration to establish standards for arsenic and lead in fruit juices in two years time.

For our investigative report, we tested 88 samples of apple juice and grape juice for lead and arsenic. We found that roughly 10 percent of the samples, from five brands, had total arsenic levels that exceeded federal drinking-water standards of 10 parts per billion (ppb) and 25 percent of the samples had lead levels higher than the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) bottled-water limit of 5 ppb. Most of the arsenic detected in Consumer Reports’ tests was a type known as inorganic, a human carcinogen.

Based on our juice test results and other evidence from our investigation, Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, had previously urged the FDA to set a standard of 3 ppb for total arsenic and 5 ppb for lead in apple and grape juice. Consumers Union supports the proposed bill. “This bill will go a long way toward protecting the public, especially children, from exposure to these toxins,” said Ami Gadhia, Senior Policy Counsel for Consumers Union.

For more information you can see our full report Arsenic in your juice: How much is too much? Federal limits don’t exist, plus download a PDF of our complete test results, and watch our video below.

Controversy over arsenic in apple juice made headlines as the 2011 school year began when Mehmet Oz, M.D., host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” told viewers that tests he’d commissioned found 10 of three dozen apple-juice samples with total arsenic levels exceeding 10 ppb. Around that time, the FDA reassured consumers about the safety of apple juice, claiming that most arsenic in juices and other foods is of the organic type and “essentially harmless.”

The FDA has since revised information on its website to include the following: “Some scientific studies have shown that two forms of organic arsenic found in apple juice could also be harmful, and because of this, the FDA counts these two forms of organic arsenic in with the overall content for inorganic arsenic.”

Consumer Reports tests juices for arsenic and lead
Consumer Reports discloses additional data from its arsenic tests

Maggie Shader

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