The Burning Question: Is Apple Juice Dangerous or Not?
Sue Tallon The Controversy
In September, The Dr. Oz Show reported that apple juice sold in the U.S. may contain levels of arsenic that are dangerous to our long-term health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shot back, saying that apple juice is safe and that Dr. Ozs claims were "irresponsible." Whos right—and should we be worried?
What the Experts Say
First, some background: Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in the environment. It once was in pesticides in the U.S., and is still used in them in some other countries. The Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA monitor arsenic in drinking water and food, making sure levels are low enough to not be a concern when it comes to the risks of long-term exposure, which include cancer and neurological problems. But while the FDA has set limits on levels of arsenic in certain products, it hasnt set a standard for juice.
The Dr. Oz Show had an independent lab analyze 36 samples of five store-bought apple juice brands. Ten of them showed concentrations of arsenic higher than the amount allowed in drinking water. (The juice companies involved dispute these results.)In response, the FDA explained that its own tests for the same juice brands found much lower levels of arsenic. But The Dr. Oz Show isnt the first to raise this alarm: A 2009 study from the University of Arizona and a 2010 report by Floridas St. Petersburg Times had similar findings. One possible explanation:Most apples used to make American juice are actually grown outside the U.S., in countries such as China, where arsenic may still be used in pesticides, Dr. Oz says.
"I do think arsenic in juice is a hazard," says Chensheng Alex Lu, PhD, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health (who is unaffiliated with The Dr. Oz Show). "No one can guarantee that if you were to drink a juice a day for years that it wouldnt cause adverse health effects down the road." Young children are especially susceptible to the effects of toxins like arsenic, Lu adds. "We just want to err on the side of caution," Dr. Oz told Health.
The Bottom Line
Arsenic in apple juice poses no immediate health threat, but no one knows how safe it is in the long run. If you or your kids drink a lot of juice, consider doing what the Oz family does: Opt for organic juice made with apples grown in the U.S., which Dr. Oz says may contain lower levels of arsenic. (Note: At press time, Dr. Oz told Health he was planning a follow-up show to explore this issue further.)