Carefully skirting the arsenic-in-the-apple-juice scare sparked last week by TV doctor Mehmet Oz, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, has called on the FDA to set standards for imported juice concentrates, and to step up inspection of concentrates from countries such as China that are known to use inorganic arsenic in pesticides.

“While there is no cause for alarm and no need to stop drinking juice,” Schumer said in a news release,  … “given the terrible track record of countries like China that export the vast majority of certain juices these days, you can never be too careful …

“Juice is safe and good for you, and the last thing parents should do is stop giving their kids fruit juices. My family drinks them and we will continue to, but the bottom line is that the Food and Drug Administration needs to have clear standards for what is acceptable and what is not, and while standards for toxic, inorganic arsenic currently exist for bottled water, they do not exist for fruit juices,” he said.

Schumer’s statement noted that after the FDA found elevated levels of inorganic arsenic in imported pear juice, it issued an import alert barring shipments of pear juice and concentrate from specific Chinese producers, and acknowledged that surveillance of heavy metals in fruit juices from all countries is warranted.

Although the FDA has said it is not necessary to set standards for juice concentrates similar to those for bottled water, which allow inorganic arsenic levels up to 10 parts per billion (ppb), Schumer argued that because juice is often consumed by children, greater precaution is necessary.

The Dr. Oz Show said apple juice samples it tested showed results as high as 36 ppb of total arsenic, but the FDA said it obtained the same lot of apple juice and found significantly less arsenic (2 to 6 ppb), trace amounts it described as consistent with the government’s test results over the past 20 years.

And the FDA pointed out that arsenic occurs naturally in many foods in both inorganic and organic forms, and that only the inorganic forms of arsenic are toxic, depending on the amount. Although the FDA said in advance of the Dr. Oz TV program that it would be irresponsible and misleading to suggest that apple juice is unsafe, the Dr. Oz Show did so anyway.

The FDA said it has been tracking total arsenic in apple and other juices, particularly since imported juices gained an increased share of the market. Agency scientists say there is no evidence of any public health risk from drinking these juices.