Arsenic in Your Fruit Juice? Tests Say Yes.



woman pouring orange juice into a glass in a kitchen by fresh fruit

Are there heavy metals lurking in your fruit juice?

Yes, according to a recent analysis by Consumer Reports (CR). CR tested 45 fruit juices in four popular flavors—apple, grape, pear and fruit blends—sold in the U.S. and found “elevated levels” of arsenic, cadmium and lead.

The levels were “concerning,” according to CR. Even more worrisome? Toxic heavy metals were found in nearly half of the juices tested.

The testing analyzed 24 national, store and private-label brands. Results included potentially harmful levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic (the type most harmful to health) and/or lead in 47 percent of juices tested.

Out of all the flavors, grape juice and juice blends had the highest average of heavy metal levels.

Toxic heavy metals are known for their silent but deadly effects. Humans are exposed to heavy metals in a variety of ways including pesticides in food, contaminated drinking water, personal care products and amalgam dental fillings.

The toxins are the most dangerous when the effects are cumulative. In other words, the more you are exposed to heavy metals, the greater the risk. According to chemist, Tunde Akinleye, who led the testing:

“In the course of a lifetime, the average person will come into contact with these metals [cadmium, inorganic arsenic, lead and mercury] many times, from many sources. We’re exposed to these metals so frequently during our lives that it’s vital to limit exposures early on.”

CR’s test results are particularly alarming for a couple of reasons. For one, fruit juices are often marketed to children, who may be seriously harmed by heavy metal exposure even at low levels. Children who suffer chronic heavy metal exposure may experience lowered IQ, cancer, type 2 diabetes and behavioral problems, among other health issues.

Secondly, these heavy metals wouldn’t be showing up in our food and drink had our regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) taken the issue more seriously.

In 2013, the FDA proposed setting a threshold of 10 parts per billion (ppb) of inorganic arsenic in apple juice, the federal standard for arsenic in drinking water. The move followed earlier testing by Dr. Oz and CR in 2011, which found arsenic in apple juice. About 10 percent of the samples exceeded the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for arsenic in drinking water.

Regulators promised to lower the allowable limit by the end of 2018. But the FDA failed to act and the limit currently remains the same. Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at CR, told CR magazine:

“We encourage the FDA to finalize the limit as soon as possible. And we have pushed the agency to establish an even lower threshold for inorganic arsenic in apple juice at 3 ppb. We also believe more juices should be covered, not just apple.”

The FDA does have a set limit for lead in juice. But it’s 50 ppb, a limit CR warns is far too high. The standard for lead in bottled water is 10 times lower, at 5 ppb.

As for cadmium, the FDA has no set limit for the heavy metal in juice. That oversight is disturbing considering exposure to cadmium is linked to kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, heavy metals are not the only threat lurking in fruit juice.

Recent testing by Moms Across America found glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, in six top-selling orange juice brands: Florida’s Natural, Tropicana, Minute Maid, Starter Bros, Signature Farms and Kirkland.

Most noteworthy about this testing is that glyphosate—an herbicide linked to cancer by the World Health Organization—is turning up in products labeled “natural.”

Consumers seek out products that are labeled “natural,” because they believe those products are pesticide-free. And companies like Florida’s Natural use the word “natural” because they know consumers look for it—and will pay a premium for it.

If you expect products labeled “natural” to be free from unnatural ingredients—including agrochemicals linked to cancer—let Florida’s Natural know.

Click here to tell Florida’s Natural: Orange juice with Roundup weedkiller isn’t “natural!”

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).

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