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FDA's New Limit For Arsenic In Apple Juice "Could Leave Children Vulnerable To Serious Health Issues"

Consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports says the recommended limit is still too high.

Ten years after issuing a draft recommendation on how much arsenic should be allowed in apple juice, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) finalized its guidance for the industry last week.

On June 1, the government agency announced its limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for inorganic arsenic in apple juice. The same limit was first proposed by the FDA back in 2013. "The guidance supports the FDA's goal to reduce exposure to environmental contaminants from foods commonly consumed by babies and young children," the FDA wrote in its announcement.

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However, the consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports says the limit isn't good enough when considering that children are the primary consumers of apple juice. In a news release also shared on June 1, the organization said 10 ppb is still too high, noting that this "would leave children vulnerable to serious health issues, including damage to the brain and nervous system, which can lead to learning and behavioral problems."

Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports, said the arsenic limit should be lower than 10 ppb, adding that because the FDA waited until most of the industry already met this level, the new limit will have "minimal impact on public health" and is "virtually irrelevant."

Consumer Reports urged the FDA to lower the limit to 3 ppb. In a 2018 test of 45 popular fruit juices, all but one of the juices had inorganic arsenic levels below 10 ppb, while 58% had levels below 3 ppb, which means the more rigorous standard is very much attainable.

As noted in FDA's report, children are more susceptible to inorganic arsenic exposure from apple juice "because children's dietary patterns are often less varied than those of adults, and they consume more apple juice relative to their body weight than do adults ."

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can be found in the soil, air, or water. It can also exist due to the use of arsenic-based pesticides or from industrial activities.

Additionally, this element can be found in two forms: organic and inorganic. Organic arsenic is mainly found in seafood and shellfish and isn't thought to be harmful to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, exposure to inorganic arsenic has been connected to a range of health issues, including cancer, diabetes, adverse birth outcomes, as well as cardiovascular and neurodevelopmental effects.

The FDA's new arsenic limit is not a requirement for manufacturers, though the FDA says it will continue to monitor arsenic levels in apple juice samples. The agency wrote, "…if testing identifies inorganic arsenic in apple juice above 10 ppb, the FDA will consider this action level, in addition to other factors, to determine whether to take enforcement action."

Brianna Ruback
Brianna is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! She attended Ithaca College, where she graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies. Read more about Brianna