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Apple juice safe but arsenic guidance still being considered - FDA

By Mark Astley , 20-Dec-2011

Apple juice safe but arsenic guidance still being considered - FDA

US food safety authorities are still considering setting guidance levels for inorganic arsenic in apple juice, despite reiterating its confidence in the overall safety of the beverage.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement, which was made after conducting a series of tests on apple juice samples, has come in response to a public and media outcry for new guidelines on the presence of arsenic in fruit juices.

FoodQualityNews.com reported recently how the FDA was “seriously considering setting guidance or other level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice,” after pressure from a consumer group.

The FDA arsenic level of concern in apple juice, which was last updated in December 2008, is set at 23 parts per billion (ppb) – at which point it would “represent a potential health risk,” the guidance added.

The 16 December update titled FDA Statement on Arsenic in Apple Juice was posted following the results of its latest data - based on the collection and analysis of 94 samples of arsenic in apple juice.

Overall confidence

“FDA remains confident in the overall safety of apple juice consumed in this country. We are able to make this statement on the strength of our recently expanded surveillance of arsenic in apple juice, an activity that the agency first began 20 years ago,” said the statement.

It added that it is nevertheless interested in minimising public exposure to the heavy metal contaminant.

The agency “is continuing to evaluate all available data and information that bear on this important issue and is considering setting a guidance level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice and apple juice concentrate that will further minimise public exposure to this contaminant.”

The 94 samples, which were collected since 28 October 2011, were tested for total arsenic, inorganic arsenic, dimethylarsenic acid (DMA) and monomethylarsenic acid (MMA).

All were available in the US marketplace at the time of testing.

The tests results showed that, “with relatively few exceptions, the tested apple juice samples contained levels of arsenic that are low compared to drinking water standards and the FDA’s current level of concern,” added the agency.

In four samples, total arsenic was found over 10ppb, with one hitting 30ppb – well above the safe legal level of 23ppb for apple juice.

The presence of inorganic arsenic ranged from no track to 9.8ppb – below the 10ppb safe level for water.

“In fact, 95% of the apple juice samples tested were below 10 parts per billion (ppb) total arsenic; and 100% below 10ppb for inorganic arsenic, the carcinogenic form of arsenic.”

“Dangerously high levels”

The FDA statement has come just days after it was revealed that a US member of the public intended to pursue a lawsuit against a brand of apple for its “dangerously high levels” of lead and arsenic, a food and drink litigation newsletter revealed.

According to the complainant, Walgreen Co. 100% Grape Juice and 100% Apple Juice levels of lead and arsenic are higher than FDA limits on these chemicals in bottled water, and the company fails to disclose information about the contaminants on products labels or in advertising.

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