FDA apple juice arsenic guidelines expected

By Mark Astley

- Last updated on GMT

FDA apple juice arsenic guidelines expected
The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) could be poised to perform a U-turn on levels of arsenic in apple juice through the development of new guidelines - a letter sent to consumer groups has revealed.

In the letter sent to the Empire State Consumer Project and the Food and Water Watch, the authority said they would be collecting all relevant information before evaluating the best course of action.

The latest statement comes just a few months after the agency publically denounced the results of arsenic tests on apple juice conducted on US TV show, the Dr Oz Show.

At the time, the agency insisted that it had “every confidence in the safety of apple juice,”​ despite the publicity surrounding the potential hazards associated with arsenic in apple juice.

The FDA has since announced that it is “seriously considering setting guidance or other level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice and are collecting all relevant information to evaluate and determine an appropriate level.”

The letter added that “in the event we find a contaminant in a food that poses a health hazard, such that the food is deemed to be adulterated, we can and intend to take appropriate enforcement action.”

FDA guidelines dictate that apple juice containing over 23 parts per billionth (ppb) of inorganic arsenic represents a potential health risk.

Results found by the Empire State Consumer Group and the Dr Oz Show were above this limit.

Above level of concern

The latest notification on the presence of arsenic in apple juice follows concern from the two groups, following tests by the Empire State Consumer Project.

The consumer group conducted several tests for the presence of arsenic in samples of Motts’ brand apple juice, which is made using Chinese apple juice concentrate.

One of the samples was found to have a total arsenic level of 55ppb – significantly higher than the FDA’s current level of concern of inorganic arsenic of 23ppb.

These results mirrored others from tests conducted on the Dr Oz Show – results the FDA dismissed.

During an episode of the Dr Oz Show, broadcast in September, tests conducted on apple juice samples showed results as high as 36 parts per billion (ppb) of total arsenic.

Irresponsible and misleading

In a reply to the Dr Oz Show, the FDA suggested that the tests completed on the show were for total arsenic - not inorganic arsenic and were therefore inaccurate.

The response, sent in September 2011, said: “The FDA believes that it would be irresponsible and misleading for the Dr Oz Show to suggest that apple juice contains unsafe amounts of arsenic based solely on tests for total arsenic.”

After learning of the results, FDA investigators approached Nestle/Gerber for analysis samples of Nestle Infant Nutrition from the same batch used by the show.

The agency collected arsenic results ranging between 2 and 6ppb total arsenic – a figure Nestle/Gerber agreed with following its own testing.

Organic arsenic is essentially harmless, but the inorganic kind can be harmful at high and long-term levels of exposure.

The FDA has been tracking total arsenic contamination in apple and other juices for around six years, since foreign producers – particularly from China – started gaining an increasing share of the juice market.

Related topics: Food safety, Regulation

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