FDA Says Arsenic Levels in Apple Juice Are A-OK

Despite pressure from consumer groups, the FDA's verdict holds firm.

baby with juice
Would you like some poison with that juice? (Photo: Tickle Images/Getty Images)
Megan is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

Back in September, The Dr. Oz Show rattled moms and apple-juice chugging babies alike by announcing that unsafe levels of arsenic were present in five popular brands of apple juice. Emboldened by the results of his commissioned lab team, Dr. Oz pointed the finger at Minute Maid Apple Juice, Apple and Eve Apple Juice, Mott's, Juicy Juice, and Gerber, all of which, he said, contained higher levels of arsenic than is allowed in drinking water. FDA officials publicly disputed the claims, but agency officials declined to appear on the show.

Fast forward a few months and the FDA is still sticking to its guns, according to Food Safety News.

In a lengthy letter penned last week by Michael Landa, acting director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the verdict was the same: arsenic levels are below the FDA's "level for concern."

The Agency stresses that there is a difference between organic and inorganic arsenic—the former being essentially harmless, while the latter is quite harmful.

Landa's letter was written in response to consumer groups Food & Water Watch and the Empire State Consumer Project, both of which have been pushing for standards on arsenic and other heavy metals in apple products. While Landa assured increased testing on imported juices, he stopped short on delivering solid tolerance levels that the groups are requesting.

"Setting a tolerance level requires formal rulemaking and is a lengthy process," Landa explained in the letter. For those and other reasons, "the FDA almost never uses tolerances for chemical contaminants, and instead considers other limits such as levels of concern or guidance or other levels."

The letter assured that contaminants found in foods that pose health hazards will be addressed with "appropriate enforcement action."

Reassured? Leave your comments below.

To see Landa's full letter, go here.

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