How Safe is that Arsenic in Your Apple Juice?

6 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

The controversy over the safety of arsenic levels in apple juice is heating up after Dr. Oz did some independent testing that questions the safety of those innocent looking juice boxes packed in so many kid lunches. Turns out the inorganic arsenic found in pesticide now banned in the U.S. is still common in apples grown in other countries and these tainted apples can end up in our juice.

There are two kinds of arsenic–inorganic and organic–and this issue is a point of controversy because Dr. Oz tested for both levels combined. That is exactly how the arsenic levels are tested in the water we drink, but according to the FDA the arsenic levels in apple juice require a different testing.

Here's the catch: If you use the same arsenic safety criteria used for water, then the apple juice tested by the independent lab for The Dr. Oz Show did not fall within safe margins. The total arsenic level is the criteria for studying water safety. Inorganic levels is the safety level currently studied by the FDA as a safety criteria.

The arsenic safety level discussion reminds me of the controversial BPA issue in plastics a few years ago. Initially the FDA was not concerned about the safety of BPA levels until the issue became a hot issue in the news. Fast forward a few years, now we can buy BPA-free plastics.

Back to the apple juice issue: FDA scientists are calling Dr. Oz irresponsible because his statements about unsafe arsenic levels do not represent appropriate testing of juice for research purposes.

I hope Dr. Oz does not shut up. We need to keep talking about it. (Remember the recent BPA issue?) I think Dr. Oz is like most moms and dads. We believe discussion is good when it comes to the safety of our kids. A public conversation about safety levels in our food is important. 

The Food and Drug Administration insists the apple juice is safe because the arsenic is within safety limits. You can read more about the FDAs statements at their on Apple Juice Fact Sheet. Plus you can keep up-to-date on the FDA's recommendations on the FDA facebook page.

The arsenic safety level issue gets complicated because arsenic has two forms: organic and inorganic. Evidently the FDA tests the levels for both forms. The inorganic arsenic in apple juice is important to evaluate because that is the form of arsenic the FDA says is toxic.

Dr. Oz tested for both forms combined–and according to the news reports and his interviews, this method was used because that is how drinking water is tested.

Stephanie Yao, an FDA spokeswoman, discussed the issue on The Washington Post

Yao said the FDA has made it clear to “Dr. Oz” producers that their testing premise was erroneous because there was no differentiation between inorganic and organic arsenic. It’s a key difference because only inorganic arsenic is toxic.

The same The Washington Post says The Dr. Oz shows stands behind their results:

Tim Sullivan, a spokesman for the show, said the producers “stand by the results.” He said a point of the segment is to highlight that the FDA allows juice to have higher levels of total arsenic than it allows water to have. This should concern parents, he said, especially since so much juice is imported from countries without much quality control.

Dr. Oz's apple juice recommendations are available on The Dr. Oz Show website.

Did Dr. Oz manufacture a health crisis? Depends on who you ask. (And once again, this reminds me of the BPA issue a few years ago.)

You can watch more of the discussion in videos here:

I think consumers need to hear both sides of the story. I think Dr. Oz did everyone a service by bringing up a controversial topic which is a very big concern: How safe are the organic and inorganic arsenic levels in our juice?

Before you toss your juice, note that Dr. Oz says the amount of arsenic in apple juice is a long-term health issue. In other words, drinking juice is a problem over time. That's why the FDA and other independent research groups need to continue to study this issue.

frenchie illustration~Chris Olson
Writer and illustrator

Momathon Blog: the 24/7 mommy marathon–on two feet or four wheels

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