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Arsenic in Fruit Juice Exceeds U.S. Federal Drinking-Water Standard

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Arsenic conjers up images of rat poison and soap opera poisonings. The truth is that arsenic does occur naturally in water. It is in the creeks and spring where I live. The EPA regulates how much arsenic is safe for drinking water:

Arsenic is a semi-metal element in the periodic table. It is odorless and tasteless. It enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth or from agricultural and industrial practices.

Non-cancer effects can include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting; diarrhea; numbness in hands and feet; partial paralysis; and blindness. Arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate.

EPA has set the arsenic standard for drinking water at .010 parts per million (10 parts per billion) to protect consumers served by public water systems from the effects of long-term, chronic exposure to arsenic. Water systems must comply with this standard by January 23, 2006, providing additional protection to an estimated 13 million Americans.

Arsenic, however, is not regulated by the FDA in beverages, and Consumer Reports has found it present in fruit juices exceeding drinking water standards.

Dr. Mercola reports:

Ten percent of the 88 juice samples tested by Consumer Reports had arsenic levels exceeding the U.S. federal drinking-water standard. A quarter of them also had lead levels higher than the 5 ppb limit set for bottled water…

There are currently no official limits set for arsenic in juices, but according to a 2008 FDA hazard assessment, 23 ppb of inorganic arsenic would represent “a potential health risk.” However, the Consumers Union (the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports) has warned that this level should NOT be used as a reference point for establishing a safety limit, because it does not take into account the now well-established carcinogenicity of inorganic arsenic.

The group has proposed the FDA set the limit for arsenic at three ppb—a far cry from the FDA’s stated “level of concern.”

The FDA has responded to the Consumers Union, indicating that the agency is considering creating a guidance for the permissible level of arsenic in apple juice. In a November 21 letter to the Empire State Consumer Project, the agency states it will collect and analyze up to 90 retail juice samples from across the US by the end of this year. However, the FDA already has data on arsenic in fruit juices. They’ve been sampling juices for several years, as part of the Total Diet Study (TDS). The results can be found on the FDA’s website.

In their letter, the FDA states “FDA monitoring has found that total arsenic levels in apple juice are typically low.” But is it low enough to protect public health?

Consumer Reports issues the following concerns:

  • Roughly 10 percent of our juice samples, from five brands, had total arsenic levels that exceeded federal drinking-water standards. Most of that arsenic was inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen.
  • One in four samples had lead levels higher than the FDA’s bottled-water limit of 5 ppb. As with arsenic, no federal limit exists for lead in juice.
  • Apple and grape juice constitute a significant source of dietary exposure to arsenic, according to our analysis of federal health data from 2003 through 2008.
  • Children drink a lot of juice. Thirty-five percent of children 5 and younger drink juice in quantities exceeding pediatricians’ recommendations, our poll of parents shows.
  • Mounting scientific evidence suggests that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead even at levels below water standards can result in serious health problems.
  • Inorganic arsenic has been detected at disturbing levels in other foods, too, which suggests that more must be done to reduce overall dietary exposure.

Healthy Child Healthy World asked last month “Is there arsenic in my kid’s apple juice?“.  Unfortunately, the answer is most likely yes. Consumer Reports is continuing to raise this issue.

I think we should do more juicing from our own apple trees.

Via: Organic Consumers Association


  1. Hello Jennifer,

    This is why we make our own juice at home. I would never let my family touch any “fruit” juice bought at the grocery!

    I’m new to your blog and I’m glad to see that you’re a Dr. Mercola fan too. I am currently following his advise about cholesterol. Here it is in case you or your readers are interested: http://www.mercola.com/Downloads/bonus/why-we-need-cholesterol/report.aspx


  2. This makes me happy that my own kids so rarely get juice, but it is so frustrating that we don’t have a lot of knowledge about what is really in our food and beverages!

  3. Apple seeds contain arsenic. Do any of these reports address whether the seeds are the source of the arsenic in apple juice? If they are, making juice at home could prevent this exposure as long as people avoid throwing whole apples into a Vitamix! I am more curious about where CU and the FDA think the lead is coming from…

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