Dr. Oz made headlines recently after his September 14th show, when he pointed a finger at the FDA for not regulating the amount of arsenic found in apple juice. The FDA, on the other hand, is claiming that Dr. Oz is guilty of irresponsible reporting. Who should we be listening to?
Dr. Oz tested apple juice samples to find out if they contained a level of arsenic that’s safe to drink. Since there are no current guidelines for how much arsenic should be in apple juice, Dr. Oz set the standards for apple juice to that of drinking water, which is 10 parts per billion. After testing (both organic and non-organic varieties of apple juice), he found that 10 samples had arsenic levels that were above his set standards.
The big issue is that apple juice is not only used as a beverage, but it is also added to numerous food products (like candy, cereals and snack bars) that line our store shelves. Dr. Oz claims that the apple juice concentrate used in these products comes from about 7 different countries, some of which don’t have the same standards for arsenic as the United States.
New York State Senator Charles Schumer released this statement after Dr. Oz’s show, stating that the FDA’s standards for apple juice assume that most folks drink 4 fluid ounces of juice per day. Given that a standard juice box is 6.75 fluid ounces of juice and that apple juice is the 20th top source of calories for children and teens ages 2 to 18 years of age, this assumption is way off.
The FDA responded that arsenic is a heavy metal and is found both naturally (in the air, ground, and water) and inorganically. The naturally occurring (or organic) arsenic is pretty harmless. It’s the inorganic arsenic that has been shown to cause cancer and kidney disease. The FDA claims that Dr. Oz tested the juice for arsenic, not differentiating whether the high levels of arsenic were from organic or inorganic sources. According to the FDA, the most accurate testing of safety, you need to specifically test for inorganic levels of arsenic. The FDA further argued that they tested the same apple juice samples as Dr. Oz and found arsenic levels within safe limits. Furthermore, the FDA does test beverages regularly to make sure they are safe to consume by the public.
Both parties make pretty strong arguments, which can leave consumers confused. However, Dr. Oz doesn’t suggest you toss out all your apple juice; the point of his show was to raise awareness to the issue of arsenic and to open discussions. There’s nothing wrong with checking and double checking the safety of our food supply—we’re all very aware that food safety issues exist. Since this argument remains inconclusive, to be 100% safe, you can juice your own US-grown apples as an alternative to purchasing juice.
TELL US: Who do you believe? Do you think apple juice is safe to drink?
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »