Recently the Dr. Oz Show reported that arsenic was found in apple and other juices. This made me wonder how it got there. Was arsenic present in the apples themselves via irrigation or contaminated soil? Was it in the water used in making juice? Or, could arsenic have been introduced in handling, processing or bottling?
Arsenic is a known carcinogen (cancer- causing agent) and can contribute to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The most common human exposure to arsenic is through contaminated drinking water. Arsenic occurs naturally in soil and water, or may result from contamination by lead arsenate insecticides used historically in orchards. The most toxic arsenic compounds are inorganic forms. Not all arsenic in soil is readily available to plants.
According to Donald Zink, Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the FDA has been testing for arsenic contamination in juice products for several years. These tests must measure inorganic arsenic (the most toxic form), not just total arsenic. The recent data presented about arsenic in apple juice on the Dr. Oz Show was for total arsenic levels. The data did not differentiate between inorganic and organic forms, and it is "inappropriate to draw conclusions about the safety of a product based on the total arsenic level" (FDA).
The FDA tested some of the same samples tested by the Dr. Oz Show as well as other lots produced in the same facility and found the amounts of inorganic arsenic were well below those reported on the show. The FDA concluded that the levels were not a public health risk and juice was safe to drink (www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm271595.htm). Currently, the FDA does not have standards for acceptable levels of arsenic in apple juice. They are working to establish those standards now.
In 2009, the University of Arizona did a study called "Presence of Arsenic in Commercial Beverages" (Roberge et al.). Researchers claimed, "A source of chronic arsenic exposure occurs via food and beverage consumption." After testing, they concluded that many juices contained total arsenic levels higher than the standards allowed for drinking water by EPA. The amount "varied between and within brands." They suggested the most likely source was from water containing inorganic arsenic. They concluded that more research was needed especially into "the underlying arsenic content of soils and irrigation water sources" (http://docsdrive.com/pdfs/sciencepublications/ajessp/2009/688-694.pdf)
Until research that is more definitive is available, moderation in the use of juices might be wise, particularly for children and elderly who are the most susceptible to arsenic exposure. For a child, a 4-ounce daily limit on all juices is recommended.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 887-2252.