To the long list of things that worry Food & Water Watch, add a river of apple juice coming from China and the high arsenic levels found in that flow.
That combo was enough to cause F&WW Thursday to call upon Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to set a tolerance level for heavy metals like arsenic in apple products. The national environmental group also wants stepped up testing on imported foods.
The request for FDA action came after F&WW and its partner, the Empire State Consumer Project, announced the results of tests by Paradigm Environmental Services showing Mott’s Apple Juice with arsenic levels of 55 parts per billion.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits arsenic in public drinking water to 10 parts per billion, a level that has forced some communities to invest millions on treatment to cut existing levels.
According to F&WW, more than 70 percent of the apple juice consumed in the United States now comes from the People’s Republic of China, where the government has acknowledged a problem enforcing a new food safety law. F&WW also reports that China makes wide use of arsenic-based pesticides in farming.
In a letter to Hamburg, F&WW’s Wenonah Hauter and Empire State’s Judy Braiman say apple juice should come in for special attention because it “is regularly consumed by children.”
“We find it unconscionable that FDA has not established tolerance levels for arsenic and other heavy metals in the foods we consume, especially for foods that are staples in children’s diets,” they wrote.
F&WW began drawing attention to potential dangers of food from China last month, especially juice, candy and canned fruit consumed by American children. According to the group, China’s food exports to the U.S. have tripled over the past decade to nearly 4 billion pounds of food in 2010 with a value of $5 billion.
Less than 2 percent of imported food is inspected by FDA.
The arsenic levels produced by the F&WW-Empire State-Paradigm tests exceeded those found in apple juice by the St. Petersburg Times in March 2010. The Florida newspaper reported levels of 35 parts per billion.
Mott’s, an American company with a history dating back to the 1840s, has not commented on the high arsenic levels found in its apple juice. FDA, which has previously expressed concerned about arsenic levels above 23 parts per billion, also has yet to comment on the uptick that may be occurring from Chinese apple juice.