At the kitchen table a few mornings ago, my daughter was swigging arsenic-laced apple juice (Mott’s). “Can’t I have just ONE more glass of apple juice?” She was a bit skeptical.
Various brands of apple juice and apple sauce were tested and unfortunately one sample of Mott’s Apple Juice registered 55 parts per billion of arsenic. To put this into perspective, 55 parts per billion is more than five times the level of arsenic that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows in drinking water. (Source)
“Did you know,” I asked her–as she sipped her Mott’s apple juice–after reading this article, “what the main problem with arsenic is, aside from the fact that in larger quantities, it can kill you?”
“What?” she responded. “Decreased intellectual ability.”
“Ok,” replied my honor student ranked 5 in her class. “I’m done.”
Whether this kind of reaction is warranted, it’s amazing that poisons like arsenic can find their way into juices children drink and nothing is said about it to the general public. I don’t know about you, but the feeling I get is that the conversation at the FDA went a little like this:
“Should we share that there’s more arsenic in children’s apple juice than water?”
“No, let’s not start a panic. We’ll just tell the companies what the problem is and then they can quietly remove it.”
“Don’t you think ‘the people’ should know?”
“Yes, but since arsenic hasn’t caused any serious problems–no one’s died choking on their arsenic apple juice this morning, have they?!? [laugh]–it can wait a bit longer.”
Sigh. Isn’t a little arsenic in your diet good for the liver? Maybe we should be giving cloves of garlic to our children along with their apple juice.
Should we be worried about arsenic in our juice? I don’t know, honestly, as I stand here throwing out apple juice boxes. Ah well. Better safe than sorry, right?
- There’s Arsenic in Your Kids’ Apple Juice —By Tom Philpott| Wed Nov. 30, 2011 11:08 AM PST
- The FDA currently does not regulate arsenic levels in fruit juices, CR reports. But for bottled and tap water, the agency enforces a standard of no more than 10 parts per billion of arsenic.
- Samples were drawn from juice in both concentrate and ready-to-drink forms, including juice boxes. All of the samples contained discernible arsenic samples; nine of them, or 10 percent of the total, were found to have arsenic levels that exceeded the drinking-water limit of 10 parts per billion. The samples were also tested for lead—and 25 percent showed levels higher than the FDA’s lead standard for bottled water, which is 5 ppb.
- “most” of the arsenic it found in juices was of the toxic inorganic variety. And while in an online Q&A about apple juice and arsenic, the FDA calls organic arsenic “essentially harmless,” it adds a few paragraphs later that “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.”
- the FDA is in fact “seriously considering” setting limits on the amount of arsenic it will allow in juice and is “collecting all relevant information to evaluate and determine an appropriate level.”
- And steady exposure to low levels of arsenic is linked to reduced intellectual capacity. Consumer Reports points to a 2004 study by Columbia University researchers showing decreased intellectual function in children exposed to drinking water with arsenic levels above 5 ppb as well as a 2011 study by Texas researchers finding that low-level arsenic exposure is “significantly related to poorer scores in language, visuospatial skills, and executive functioning” and “poorer scores in global cognition, processing speed, and immediate memory.”
- “Recent studies have shown that early childhood exposure to arsenic carries the most serious long term risk,” researcher Joshua Hamilton of the Marine Biological Laboratory told Consumer Reports. “So even though reducing arsenic exposure is important for everyone, we need to pay special attention to protecting pregnant moms, babies, and young kids.”
- The brands that fared worst (again, I should stress the caveat about sample size) were Walgreens grape juice, Welch’s grape juice, Walmart’s Great Value apple juice, and Mott’s apple juice in juice boxes. Samples of the two organic brands in the test, Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value organic apple juice and Gerber Organic apple juice, had arsenic content of around 7 parts per billion (Whole Foods) and 5 parts per billion (Gerber)—well above Consumer Union’s desired threshold, but below the FDA’s drinking-water standard.
- Tom Philpott is the food and ag blogger for Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. To follow him on Twitter, click here. Get Tom Philpott’s RSS feed.