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Tempest in a Juice Box: Dr. Oz vs FDA

In an unusual rebuttal to a popular TV doctor, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Wednesday took on Dr. Mehmet Oz over arsenic in apple juice.

Just not face to face.

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A few hours before The Dr. Oz Show aired to an afternoon audience, the FDA released copies of correspondence it had sent to the show’s producers, and posted several information pieces online (one is reposted on this site), all disputing the show’s conclusions about the safety of most commercial brand apple juice.

But agency officials declined Dr. Oz’s invitation to answer questions before a studio audience, and the doctor capitalized on their absence in making his points to angry parents.

Arsenic and apple juice has been a hot topic for some time.

Last year, Florida’s St. Petersburg Times reported that it found arsenic amounts in Motts, Apple & Eve Organics, Walmart’s Great Value, Nestle’s Juicy Juice, Minute Maid, Tree Top, and Target’s Market Pantry exceeding the limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency for public drinking water: 10 parts per billion (ppb).

In July, the advocacy group Food & Water Watch weighed in, releasing results of tests it commissioned that showed Mott’s Apple Juice with arsenic levels of 55 parts per billion. The group said more than 70 percent of apple juice consumed in the U.S. comes from China, and countries like Argentina, and that arsenic-based pesticides were to blame. Food & Water Watch called on the FDA to set tolerance levels for arsenic and other heavy metals in foods.

On Wednesday’s Dr. Oz Show, test results were shown for samples of five different brands of commercial apple juice; Dr. Oz said 10 samples out of the dozens tested had come back with higher levels of arsenic than allowed in drinking water:

Minute Maid Apple Juice

Lowest Sample for Arsenic: 2 parts per billion

Highest Sample for Arsenic: 3 parts per billion

Apple and Eve Apple Juice

Lowest Sample for Arsenic: 3 parts per billion

Highest Sample for Arsenic: 11 parts per billion

Mott’s

Lowest Sample for Arsenic: 4 parts per billion

Highest Sample for Arsenic: 16 parts per billion

Juicy Juice

Lowest Sample for Arsenic: 2 parts per billion

Highest Sample for Arsenic: 22 parts per billion

Gerber

Lowest Sample for Arsenic: 3 parts per billion

Highest Sample for Arsenic: 36 parts per billion

Dr. Oz said none of the organic apple juice tested by his commissioned lab contained arsenic. He urged viewers to check juice boxes for country of origin and to “vote with our pocketbooks,” forcing change at the cash register by rejecting imported apple juice.

While the FDA was subjected to some harsh criticism (“government needs to step in and draw a line”), a guest pointed out that more oversight requires a bigger budget (“we need to fund them better so they can do a better job of protecting us”).

In its letter to show’s producers, the FDA disputed in particular the validity of the Gerber test results, saying it analyzed the same batch of juice and found arsenic levels ranging from 2 to 6 ppb. The agency added that “the vast majority of apple juice samples tested by the FDA over that past 20 years show that apple juice typically contains less than 10 ppb total arsenic.”

Moreover, the FDA said the Dr. Oz Show tests did not distinguish between essentially harmless organic forms of arsenic, and harmful inorganic forms of arsenic.

“It is inappropriate to draw conclusions about the safety of a food based on the total arsenic level since in most instances organic arsenic, which again is essentially harmless and not absorbed by the body, makes up the bulk of the total arsenic in foods like juice,” wrote the FDA’s Donald Zink, senior science advisor, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

One of Dr. Oz’s guest experts noted that the amount of arsenic in a single box of apple juice should pose no hazard to a child’s health, and Dr. Oz said the problem is “chronic toxicity.”

But others who have tried to quantify the long-term risk to children from the arsenic naturally found in drinking water  – at the levels set by the EPA —  have said the danger is actually quite low. One University of Washington pediatric environmental health specialist estimated that if 1 million children, each day for five years, each drank one liter of water with arsenic slightly above the federal standards of 10 ppb, about 10 to 30 more cancers of the bladder or lungs would result.

Dr. Oz would likely not be impressed by such a calculation. He said that, in his opinion, there should be no allowable amount of arsenic in apple juice consumed by children.

What he did not say on air — although his website mentions it — is that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that fruit juice should not be given to children until they are six months old, and then no more than 6 ounces a day until they’re 6. The pediatricians say children should be encouraged to eat apples rather than drink apple juice, and not because of arsenic fears.

Juice lacks the fiber and other nutrients available in whole fruit. Too much juice can lead to weight problems and tooth cavities; water is a better beverage for kids.  But water, of course, also contains trace levels of arsenic.

© Food Safety News
  • blah

    They forget to mention… arsenic kills you when you STOP taking it.

  • http://hhtp:/www.foodsafetynews.com william gross

    Why do we need any aresnic in our food?

  • http://www.foodsafetynews.com c

    Thank you Doctor Oz!

  • http://www.foodsafteynews.com andrea

    This seems like an easy way for the fda and I mean the goverment to thin out the herd as in get rid of some of us but not all of us. Juciy juice and gerber and adam and eve. They are all tied in to the wic system they most likely knew about the levels because they give to thoses who need the extra help we need to hold them accountable we are so worried about today but what we need to worry about is tomorrow the generations before us knew what was in there food because they made it themselves but I this day and age we are so blind and so money hungry to not look past the ends of nose at the bigger picture. The President congress and thoses who run our lives need to be held accountable there are too old sayings that still hold true more now then ever one and this is for the president congress and law makers “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” meaning that weather you are democarat or a repuclican be a human being and need too look past sorry to put it this way but your petty bullshit and the tempertantrums that you throw when either side can’t get its way and grow up and take charge they way leaders of what you like to call your great nation because if you do not do something about it now there will be nothing left to fix . The second saying holds true and this is to mother’s father’s and everything in between “if you leave a turkey out side to stare up at the rain it will drown ” and I am not going to say I have been one of them but I am sorry because if you are a mother a father or any one in between and if you don’t value your life the life of your child you can’t call your self human . And to thoses of you who run this country would you want to chance your life your childrens lives your family’s lives to pass a buck we all should be ashamed of our selves to let this go on any longer I know I don’t want to be one of those mother’s on tv say that my child died over something as simple as a box of juice there is nothing more sensless then that I hope people read this and think just for a minute about what the big picture is

  • http://www.godisimaginary.com Karl Schneider

    Dr. (?) Oz is a quack and a crazy charlatan…he believes John Edward can talk to dead people! I wouldn’t trust him to medicate my dog.

  • Lewis

    Well to me this is just a blow over to save big business, while all those idiots on capital hill lie why should we believe your report? just another cover-up….We are not buying these products along with a whole new group to start supporting U,S growers, if you buy from overseas to make products here you should sell them there….Do not believe or my friends in this report, if congress can be bought off well??? THINK AMERICAN

  • Carlo Silvestri

    I don’t trust anything that comes from China in the form of foodstuff. The question that I would have is, is the arsenic found strictly in the juices that are made from imported concentrates or is arsenic found in something like Martinelli’s (100% California grown apples)? If arsenic is found only in the imported, then I would wonder about the types of fertilizer used on the apple trees and whether or not this is a continuation of the slow poisoning of the American food supply courtesy of poorly or non-regulated foreign food.

  • KimE

    I watched the Dr. Oz show on apple juice and while my son is grown up, he has two sons and this just makes me mad! How can the govt let food items(remember the honey imports from China?) like this is without testing? The govt probly tests more meats that come in than fruits and veggies!! They should require Letters of Guarantee from producers stating what chemicals/pesticides are used and what kind of composition the “concentrates” contain. We have strict food and meat guidelines here, should we expect no less from importers!!!

  • the.chemist.of.discord

    Testing is performed, you silly, panicky geese. Dr. Oz is neither a biochemist, nor a toxicologist, and the lab he contracted, EMSL Analytical, did not perform the EPA analytical method described here:http://www.fda.gov/Food/ScienceResearch/LaboratoryMethods/ElementalAnalysisManualEAM/ucm219640.htm which differentiates between organic and inorganic arsenic. And guess what? There are trace levels of everything in foodstuffs. Dr. Oz demonstrates a profound ignorance of toxicology when he states that there shouldn’t be any arsenic in food — not even a couple of atoms? How about carbon? There’s a huge number of toxic compounds wherein carbon is the main constituent. The man is a sensationalist whose well out of his area of expertise.

  • akech

    This is one of the many shortcuts the multinational corporations who are in partnership with China are willing to take to meet their bottomline. In China, everything is on the table. Cheap labor, lack of regulation and arsenic pesticides are accomodated!
    Many of you need to watch the documentary “FOOD,INC” where profit is not everything; profit is the only thing. Food safety? Who cares about FOOD safety!

  • John Browne

    Arsenate of lead was a premier insecticide spray in fruit orchards for DECADES in the U.S. Even if its use was discontinued awhile back (in favor of Diazinon, and some other things that have Also been ‘discontinued’) it’s still around in orchard soils. Do the trees take it up some, every year? Does it end up in the wood… or leaves… or fruit?
    The FDA’s “authority” to determine what’s OK & what isn’t has quite a track record… that includes some crash landings. The USDA has generally been a BOOSTER of whatever is considered to be “conventional” methods of propagation… which certainly has included chemicals & methods considered dangerous, today.
    Let the buyer beware (& the grower be… thoughtful). ^..^

  • http://www.change.org/petitions/the-us-senate-tell-us-where-our-food-is-from Concerned Momft

    Guys, all those apple juices I believe were from CHINA. They still spray their fields with arsenic as a pesticide. That is the common thread. Hence the higher levels of arsenic in those.
    This points to our need to have better country of origin labeling. Food standards are NOT the same in other countries as they are here as the Dr. Oz segment found out. These types of juice products go into other things too to give them a fruit type flavor. It is going other places too, lots of other places.
    We have a right to know country of origin in our country. We give China over 4.9 billion a year to feed us, I think we would all like to know where that is going and also the raw ingredients that the FDA is allowing to enter our food supply from around Fukushima, Japan, the site of the worst nuclear disaster known to man.
    If you want to know where your food is coming from, sign this petition and share with all those you know and love.
    http://www.change.org/petitions/the-us-senate-tell-us-where-our-food-is-from

  • Paris

    I am posting this on my facebook and letting all my friends and their family’s no to take Mott’s Natural Apple Juice off the Halloween party’s and the Holidays to come drink list until they buy only apples from the U.S.A. period the Government has to step its game up we are getting treated like we are a 3rd would country and for the life of me I don’t know why anyone would want to leave their country to get into this one our own Government don’t really even care about us and MOTT’S you should be ashamed of yourselves this breaks my heart.

  • concerned

    I’m very concerned over this.
    There are children who are autistic or developmentally delayed who have to go on special food diets to control their behavior. Some are tested where lead IS found in their bloodstream. With arsenic and heavy metal in Apple juice I see why they are.on special diets to avoid such foods. I know 2 children on this diet and I see why because of.how these dangerous chemicals affect them and cause behavioral changes, and affect there digestive tract.
    I’ll have to research more on organic food.
    Same goes from heavy metal as part of vaccination. I’m banning these brand of Apple juices from my home today.