This past year, I started writing a health and fitness column through Creators Syndicate titled “C-Force.” It is no surprise that in researching for that column I’ve discovered repeat offenses of food and beverage tampering by the federal government. But arsenic in apple juice?
Dr. Oz received significant flak when he reported in September that “some of the best-known brands of apple juice contain arsenic.” Since then, however, Oz has been redeemed and his claims substantiated!
After Oz’s initial comments, Dr. Richard Besser, a 13-year veteran of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ABC News chief health and medical editor, publicly lambasted Oz and his apple-arsenic warnings as “extremely irresponsible,” “fear mongering” and equated them to yelling “‘Fire!’ in a movie theater.” Amid the public debate, the FDA tried to steady the apple cart by saying that consumption of apple juice “poses little or no risk.”
But just a few days ago, I watched a humbled Dr. Besser on “Good Morning, America” recant his fury against Oz’s conclusions, saying instead that new studies have just confirmed arsenic is indeed in many popular apple juices.
ABC News reported that Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of popular brands of grape and apple juice sold in the U.S., including Welch’s, Minute Maid and Mott’s. The results revealed that 10 percent of the juices “had total arsenic levels greater than the FDA’s standard for drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb), while 25 percent of juices also had lead levels higher than the FDA’s bottled water limit of 5 ppb.”
Furthermore, data on arsenic in adult urine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrated that men and women who drank apple or grape juice in a 24-hour period had, “on average, about 20 percent higher levels of total urinary arsenic than those subjects who did not.”
Consumer Reports went on to report that the arsenic tested and detected is inorganic and a human carcinogen. It further explained the dangers of arsenic that there is “mounting scientific evidence suggesting that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead even at levels below federal standards for water can result in serious health problems, especially for those who are exposed in the womb or during early childhood. FDA data and other research reveal that arsenic has been detected at disturbing levels in other foods as well.” But who wants or needs inorganic or organic arsenic in their water, juices or foods? (Oz further notes that, though many say that organic arsenic is safe, there is clear evidence that both forms are ultimately hazardous to our health.)
Tragically teetering on a huge U.S. health cover up, just a few weeks ago, the FDA posted eight “previously undisclosed test results” for apple juice samples from around the country that had arsenic levels that superseded even their own “level of concern” for inorganic arsenic. Two of those eight samples had arsenic levels of 27 ppb, one with 42 ppb, and two others with 45 ppb!
What’s even worse is that these five samples were discovered in 2008! And we’re just finding out about them now? Such undisclosed elevated levels of arsenic give a whole new meaning to the saying, “Quit drinking the Feds’ Kool-Aid!”
To our detriment, the FDA has limits for arsenic in water (including bottled), but no such regulations on fruit juices. At very least, the FDA should not allow more arsenic in apple juice than it allows in Americans’ drinking water! Until then, tides of arsenic will continue to flow from foreign produce fields into American bloodstreams. (If you want to weigh in on this issue, contact the FDA at FDA.gov or call 1-888-463-6332.)
Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, rightly delivered this staunch warning: “We’re concerned about the potential risks of exposure to these toxins, especially for children who are particularly vulnerable because of their small body size and the amount of juice they regularly consume.”
With apple juice lacing everything from children’s diets, cereals, snack bars and holiday party tables, we need to heed this countrywide health warning and blow the trumpet to our neighbors. The fact is that the U.S is getting more and more of its fruits and vegetables from other countries, and many of them do not preclude or limit arsenic in their pesticides or even their water supply, as the U.S. does. Oz reported that apple concentrate comes from up to seven countries – 60 percent of it imported from China alone.
I agree with Oz, Rangan and Consumer Reports: “[I]t’s best for consumers to reduce their exposure” to these juices. Consumer Reports is now recommending, until this juice fiasco is remedied, not giving any type of juice to infants under six months of age, no more than four to six ounces daily to children ages up to six, and older children no more than eight to 12 ounces daily.
This is another perfect example why health and fitness enthusiasts like my wife, Gena, and I encourage everyone to buy local and organic, always, and, where you can, grow your own produce, and juice it yourself.
So let buyers beware! Poisonous apples are definitely not just being offered in fictional Snow White adventures.
(If you want to be involved in an encouraging export this Christmas, ensure more than 60,000 servicemen and women abroad receive Christmas care packages by donating to Give2TheTroops.org. Tell them Chuck sent you!)