YONKERS, NY — Juices which are typically marketed toward children are not only high in sugar but according to Consumer Reports testing, they have potentially harmful levels of heavy metals.
Consumer Reports (CR), a nonprofit advocacy organization analyzed 45 popular fruit juiced sold across the United States. Nearly half of those tested had concerning levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, or cadmium, which are elements commonly known as heavy metals. These metals could pose a health risk, especially in children. CR said that while the levels are lower than they were several years ago, when tested, they are still concerning. “This suggests that safer juices can be produced, and we encourage the industry to act to further reduce risk because we know it is possible, said James Dickerson, Ph.D., CR’s chief scientific officer.
The harmful effects of heavy metals are possibly dangerous to the health of children and those who consume a lot of these juices. This is a reason for concern because in a national CR survey, over 80% of parents with children ages three and under give their children juice at least sometimes and 74% drink juice at least once a day. These heavy metals can increase the risk of lowered IQ, behavioral problems, type-2 diabetes, and cancer, among other health issues, depending on how long they are exposed to these toxins.
Adults can also sustain harmful effects by consuming heavy metals in even modest amounts, over time raising the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer; cognitive and reproductive problems; and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions. “The risk comes from chronic exposure, and that risk is avoidable,” Dickerson added.
“Families today face too many hidden hazards, in both the food and drinks we consume and the products and services we rely on,” said Marta L. Tellado, President and CEO of Consumer Reports. “Shining a light on those hazards is the first step toward rooting them out. We remain committed to working with consumers, the industry, and the government to produce food that we can all trust.”
Consumer Reports found elevated levels of inorganic arsenic and lead in apple and grape juices in 2011. In the most recent study, CR tested 45 non-refrigerated, ready-to-drink juices including apple, fruit juice blends, grape, and pear. Samples came from 24 different national, store, and private level brands.
The findings were alarming because every product tested had measurable levels of at least one heavy metal including cadmium, inorganic arsenic, lead, or mercury. In addition, nearly half (47 percent) of the juices had concerning levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic, and/or lead. Seven of the tested juices could harm children who drink half a cup or more a day and nine others pose a risk to kids that drink one cup or more per day. Ten of the juices can be harmful to adults, ive at half a cup or more per day, and five more at one cup or more a day.
Grape juice and juice blends had the highest average heavy metal levels. Two Welch’s products, Welch’s 100% Juice Antioxidant Superberry and Welch’s 100% Concord Grape Juice had lead levels that exceeded the FDA standard for bottled water. Organic juices did not have lower levels of heavy metals.
Consumer Reports is asking the government to set a long-term goal of no measurable heavy metals in fruit juices. Few limits on heavy metals in juice are in place. For example, in 2013 the FDA proposed limiting the amount of inorganic arsenic in apple juice to 10 parts per billion (ppb), the federal arsenic standard for drinking water. In CR’s current tests, one sample, Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice registered higher. The FDA previously told CR that limit would be finalized by the end of 2018, but it is still not issued.
“We encourage the FDA to finalize the limit as soon as possible,” says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at CR. “And we have urged the agency to establish an even lower threshold for inorganic arsenic in juice at 3 ppb since we know that’s possible. Fifty-eight percent of the juices we tested had levels below 3 ppb.”
As with arsenic, CR’s testing showed that it is possible for manufacturers to sharply reduce the amount of lead in their products. More than half (53 percent) of the tested juices had levels of 1 ppb or less. For cadmium, the FDA has not proposed a limit in juice. However, CR supports a limit of 1 ppb of cadmium in juice. Only three of the tested products had cadmium levels higher than that.
Consumer Reports encourages parents to limit children’s exposure to heavy metals in fruit juice, the best way is by limiting how much fruit juice they drink. Parents should also limit their children’s consumption of other foods high in these toxins, such as rice and rice products, chocolate, and sweet potatoes.
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