Dr Oz: Arsenic in Apple Juice. Consumer Reports Investigation.

Dr Oz - Truth About Arsenic in Apple JuiceDec 1, 2011 – Dr. Mehmet Oz’s very vehement concern over the possibility of arsenic in America’s apple juice supply has proven to be such a controversial issue that Dr. Oz has been publicly accused of “fear mongering”,  juice companies are considering suing, and it’s got the FDA “all in a flutter”!

But he is must be feeling justified today in light of new evidence being released by Consumer Reports that their investigation also showed that some popular brands of apple juice exceeded the drinking water limit of arsenic. The Dr. Oz Show had Consumer Reports Urvashi Rangan, PhD and Director of Consumer Safety on the show today. She shared some in depth information on their investigation as well as some positive changes being proposed by the FDA!

Dr. Rangan said that Consumer Reports did a small snapshot of apple juice and grape juice as part of a wider investigation of arsenic in the food supply. They also reported on a number of other foods that are of concern that are prone to high levels of arsenic, like rice and wine. They did not test these foods, only reported on them.

They chose to test  juice because of how much kids drink. They looked at juices of both organic and conventional sources.  They looked at some from single origins and multiple origins because they know that the apple juice concentrates come from all over the world.

They looked at 88 samples of apple and grape juice and found 10% of the samples exceeded the drinking water limit of arsenic.  They found that most of the arsenic was of the inorganic form, they form considered harmful.

The arsenic level for drinking water is 10 ppb (parts per billion)
The FDA set a “level of concern” for apple juice at 23 ppb.

The FDA has been releasing information from its program of monitoring arsenic levels in juice and juice concentrates.  But right before Thanksgiving the FDA revealed additional test results that they had not disclosed before.  Eight of their results had levels of arsenic above their “level of concern”,  ranging from 25 ppb all the way up to 45 ppb!
Overall, 11% of the samples that the FDA released in this most recent study were above the 10 ppb.

Dr. Rangan explained to Dr. Oz the significance of this new evidence.

  • These numbers are awful high limits for the FDA to withhold from the public. These samples were collected from 2008 to 2011.
  • It underscores the fact that there is so much variance in the levels of arsenic found in apple juice.  It is also worthy to note that while these were the highest levels found in those eight samples, the FDA has found even higher spikes. In fact they found 86 ppb in baby apple juice at one point in time.  So variances are there and spikes are possible.
  • These are the reasons that we need to set a standard and we should be doing that right away.

Consumer Reports also look into how much arsenic we have in our bodies. Dr. Rangan explained that they looked at health data from large federal databases where the federal government collects information from urine samples and dietary surveys.

They looked at 3000 people from about 2003 to 2008 and they looked at their urinary levels of arsenic and whether they had consumed apple or grape juice in the day before.  They eliminated people who ate fish because that would confound these results.

What they found was that people who drank apple or grape juice the day before had 20% higher levels of arsenic in their urine then people who didn’t.  That suggests that arsenic from these juices can be a source of dietary exposure to arsenic.

Why is this information important?

Dr. Oz says doctors are learning more and more about the chronic effects of arsenic exposure.  Specifically,  its link to bladder cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, impact on heart disease, diabetes, and learning disabilities.  And it can go way beyond the things that they are able to put their hands on and figure out.

So what’s the FDA doing about arsenic in apple juice?

Dr. Oz said they had a conference call with the FDA on October 18, 2011 and asked the scientists how confident are they today about the safety of their “level of concern” they set at 23 ppb.

Their statement is “the FDA is re-evaluating the level of concern for apple juice to determine if it’s still appropriate or needs to be adjusted.”

The FDA said they did not consider the risk of cancer when they set the “level of concern”. They did not look at the long-term possibilities of complications.  They only looked at the short term risks.

In an e-mail to the Dr. Oz Show on November 29, 2011,  the FDA quoted “the assessment will consider potential cancer risks due to lifetime exposure”

How can the FDA consider a number that did not take into account cancer risks?

The Consumer Reports did come up with a “safe number” in considering those cancer risks in their investigation.

Dr. Rangan explained that they calculated a weight dependent dose so they could see that for each weighted group what their maximum amount of arsenic should be in a day.
They overlaid that information with juice concentrations at various levels such as 1 ppb, 2 ppb 3 ppb etc.
Then overlaid the amounts of juice against those weights to see when kids would hit their maximum dose.
They arrived at 3 ppb at a reasonable safety limit for total arsenic in juices. And 40% of their samples already met that threshold.

Dr. Rangan feels this number is reasonable, it is practical, and we can do it now. The FDA ought to move forward to set this as a standard.

In the meantime, what can we do to limit our families exposure of arsenic?

For apple juice, Dr. Oz wishes he could tell you which one is safe.  Any box of juice that you buy may contain zero to pretty high levels of arsenic. Until there is a standard Dr. Oz suggests:

  • diluting  juice with water to limit both sugar and potential arsenic exposure.
  • diversify the juices that your child drinks each day. For example trading out the apple juice for orange juice some days.
  • follow your pediatrician’s recommendations

American Academy of Pediatrics has recommendations for the consumption of juice based on rules other than the exposure of arsenic.  But Dr. Rangan thinks their reccomendations are a good rule of thumb to follow:

  • Juice should not be introduced into the diet of infants before 6 months of age.
  • Intake of fruit juice should be limited to 4 to 6 oz per day for children 1 to 6 years old.
  • 7 to 18 years old, juice intake should be limited to 8 to 12 oz or 2 servings per day
  • Infants, children, and adolescents should not consume unpasteurized juice.

For drinking water, Urvashi Rangan, PhD of Consumer Reports Director of Consumer Safety, suggests using an interactive map done by the US Geological Service (USGS) that shows areas where ground water may be prone to higher arsenic levels.

You can also contact EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to look at your Consumer Confidence Report for your municipal water supply. Take a look at whether arsenic is a problem in the water in your area.  If it is, you may want to consider a water filtration system that deals with arsenic.  It’s a slightly more advanced filtration system than the normal, but it is well worth it if you have elevated levels of arsenic.

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