The Food and Drug Administration has reiterated its finding that apple juice sold across the U.S. is safe to drink, with naturally occurring arsenic levels well below the agency’s “level of concern,” but says it may set new guidelines on an appropriate level for inorganic arsenic.

“FDA monitoring has found that total arsenic levels in apple juice are typically low,” according to Michael Landa, acting director of the FDA”s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Landa reached that conclusion in a lengthy letter last week to two consumer groups, Food and Water Watch and the Empire State Consumer Project, which are campaigning for standards for arsenic and other heavy metals in apple products.

The letter also states that in addition to its continued monitoring of imported apple juice, the agency will collect and analyze juice samples from U.S. retailers to determine “the prevalence of arsenic in juice and to better understand the species of arsenic found in juice.” 

The issue got attention earlier this year when The Dr. Oz Show publicized results of private tests showing arsenic levels higher than the FDA level of concern (23 parts per billion) in a number popular brands of apple juice.  FDA officials publicly rebutted those claims, but declined to appear on the TV show.

Arsenic and apple juice have become a recurring theme in food safety politics. Consumer groups point out that most U.S. apple juice is imported from China and other countries, and they fear some of it may be tainted with arsenic and other heavy metals.

In his letter, Landa said the agency has increased its monitoring of imported juices. In one recent sampling, all 74  samples collected had originated in China.  But only one of those samples tested slightly above 23 ppb of total arsenic.  Most of the samples – 95 percent – tested below 10 ppb total arsenic, Landa reported.

Tests of Motts apple juice, commissioned by the Empire State Consumer Project, had shown arsenic levels as high as 55 ppb.  But those tests “seemed inconsistent with the vast majority of the test results we have seen in the last two decades,” Landa said.

So the agency collected and tested additional samples of Chinese apple juice from the Mott’s plant in New York, and those tests showed arsenic levels between 4 ppb and 8 ppb – a fraction of what the consumer group had found.

Similarly, the FDA tested juice from the same Nestle/Gerber lot that the TV program had shown to contain 36 ppb total arsenic, but the FDA tests showed arsenic levels ranging from 2 to 6 ppb.

The FDA previously has stressed the importance of distinguishing between organic and inorganic arsenic.  Organic arsenic is considered part of the natural environment, present in small amounts in drinking water and foods and essentially harmless, while inorganic arsenic is the poison made famous by mystery writer Agatha Christie.

In the letter to Food & Water Watch and the Empire State Consumer Project, Landa said the FDA has ordered its field force to collect and analyze up to 90 baby food and apple juice samples by the end of the year. It also will focus on arsenic measurement in other types of juices.

The letter also said “in the event we find a contaminant in a food that poses a health hazard, such that the food is deemed to be adulterated, we can and intend to take appropriate enforcement action.”

Responding to the consumer groups’ request that FDA set tolerance levels for heavy metals, including arsenic, in apple products, Landa said such an action requires “formal rulemaking and is a lengthy process,” and that tolerance levels, once established, are difficult to change.

“For those reasons, FDA almost never uses tolerances for chemical contaminants, and instead considers other limits such as levels of concern or guidance or other levels,” Landa wrote. But he said agency officials are “seriously considering setting guidance or other level for inorganic apple juice and are collecting all relevant information to evaluate and determine an appropriate level.”


  • Erika

    Stop letting China produce our juice, food, or any type of product for that matter! They do not have the same safety guidelines or regulations we do. WHY, WHY, WHY can’t we make all our own products like we used to? Because, it is cheaper to have foreign countries make our products? What about the safety of our people and children? I guess saving a buck means more!

  • Pat

    I don’t understand why the government is allowing any of this to be in our food &’s just like the meat & poultry we get now, they have so many growth harmones & other crap in it that it is not fit to eat!& yes I raise my own! Everyone should be very picky about where they get the meat. Our government is not our friend.

  • j

    We got to stop getting our dam produce from foriegn countries its not safe???????

  • Unfortunately, the FDA is guilt of hiding the highest level products they tested, actually misinformed intentionally Dr. Richard Besser of ABC News as he reported yesterday. Besser admitted he does not trust the FDA since they withheld the study results. Further, the claim that organic arsenic is different from inorganic is false. The type found in the apple juice samples, was the poisonous kind. If the FDA approves of this (imported from China) product, they are not protecting the public, but rather China’s profits.

  • Adam Stone

    You were right!

  • Consumers are the ones who demand “cheaper” foods and support the purchase and distribution of cheap low quality foods from countries like China. More and more of them purchase food from stores like Walmart that demands lowest pricing. It’s basic Economics – Supply and Demand – controls what we get. I urge consumers to READ their labels of what they’re buying.! All labels for food and fresh produce have to show Where it’s from. I have noticed at Grocery Outlet all the fresh garlic and ginger is from China – I won’t buy!
    The avacodos were from Peru! Why would I buy from those countries when we have beautiful fruit and vegetables produced by American Farmers under much stricter and safer standards required by EPA. Consumers need to stop Choosing Foreign produced food and clothing etc. and Demand American – that will be better for our health and economy!

    • April Gaede

      As I stated in my comment above, the labels are not necessarily accurate or forthright. The juice we sold was not labeled from China so there was no way of knowing once it left out plant.

  • Newshound

    Chicken has more arsenic than apple juice: ( is my non-commercial, go-to source for current research findings.)

  • Sammich

    U.S. Grown foods may have more arsenic than Asian imports. We have a longstanding history of using arsenic laden pesticides on our farmland, especially in our cotton growing days in the south. In a recent study comparing rice grown in the U.S. vs. Asia, higher levels of arsenic were found in the U.S. rice. It seems that the FDA mainly tested Chinese apple juice in this article. I am curious to see what the levels of arsenic are in our own apple juices.

  • April Gaede

    In the late 90’s I worked for Sun Met Juice plant in Sanger California. I was part of the lab or quality control. One day I had to go to a warehouse to put some organic labels on barrels of concentrate. They were making up barrels of juice using 10% organic that we had made there at the plant and 90% from barrels of apple juice from China. I asked about the legitimacy of that but I was told by the plant manager that it ” only has to be 10% organic for the label”. I also stated to him at the time that ” there is no way of knowing what in the heck was put on those apples in China or how they were processed, how can we put our label on that?”. He dismissed my concerns. That concentrate was sold to Gerber, and other prominent baby food companies as well as other companies that make it from concentrate. And if you think that is a horror story you should know what I saw from the Kosher rabbi inspectors……