Is apple juice poisoning our children: update

March 29, 2012, 10:47 pm

On the current episode of the podcast ToxTalk, there is an interesting discussion about the kerfuffle caused by the Dr. Oz show claiming that potentially harmful amounts of arsenic are found in a large percentage of commercial apple juice products. (For TPR‘s coverage of this issue, click here and here). Similarly alarmist stories released by Consumer Reports about lead and arsenic in a variety of juices are also analyzed. Matt Zuckerman from the University of Massachusetts and Chuck McKay from the Connecticut Poison Center make the following key points:

  • The standard for comparison was chosen to produce the most alarmist results: Consumer Reports compared the amount of lead in juice to the standard for bottled water (5 ppb), allowing it to state that about 25% of juice samples contained elevated levels of lead. Had they compared the results to tap water standards (15 ppb), only 1 in 88 samples contained elevated lead — and that level was 16 ppb.
  • In any case, the regulatory standards have an extremely large safety margin built in: The allowable levels are orders of magnitude below where you’d expect heavy metals to cause detrimental health effects, especially on an individual basis. The fact that a specific product has, say, a lead level a few ppb above standard has no clinical significance.
  • Comparing juice to water is even worse than comparing apples to oranges: No one is suggesting that children should drink large amounts of juice. If they do, there are other real problems such as calorie intake and obesity to worry about.

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