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Video: Study: High arsenic levels in apple, grape juice

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    >>> alarming new questions over the safety of your kids' favorite juices. in september, dr. mehmet oz ignited a firestorm with his studies. " consumer reports " is out with research of its own and appears to black the claims. tom costello, good morning to you.

    >> the magazine tested almost 100 samples of apple and grape juice and found that 10% had total arsenic levels higher than federal drinking water standards for arsenic. the latest study from " consumer reports " may scare some parents about the safety of apple juice . the magazine is raising concern about arsenic in both apple and grape juice , of the 88 samples tested by " consumer reports ," 10% had total arsenic levels that exceeded federal drinking water standards. unlike water, there are no federal limits for juice.

    >> it's a product that everybody feeds their children and infants, and i don't understand why there could possibly be such a thing in something so natural.

    >> if it's to the point where it's causing harm to her development, definitely, i would stop.

    >> reporter: this isn't the first time apple juice has been in the headlines.

    >> i'm worried about it as a father of four.

    >> reporter: in september, dr. oz announced findings from his own study of arsenic levels in apple juice .

    >> some of the best known brands in america have arsenic in their apple juice .

    >> reporter: an independent lab hired by the dr. oz show found one-third of the tested samples had arsenic levels higher than what the epa allows in drinking water . the fda took issue with dr. oz's findings saying the study did not differentiate between the two types of arsenic, organic and inorganic. now " consumer reports " says its tests do make a distinction, adding "most of the arsenic" it found was inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen. the fda insisted arsenic is safe.

    >> in our testing that lot has a small amount of arsenic in it, it would be no concern whatsoever.

    >> reporter: the fda still stands by that but in a statement to nbc news it now says it's conducting more test to determine if a guidance level can be established that would relus consumers' exposure to arsenic in apple juice . the juice products association says it's committed to following federal guidelines as it has for decades, adding comparing arsenic in apple juice to water is not appropriate. regulatory agencies have set lower thresh holds for drinking water than food and other beverages because people consume larger amounts of water. this is important, the fda has said that the level of concern for arsenic in apple juice is 23 parts per billion , 23, only one of the grape juices tested by " consumer reports " exceeded that level, none of the apple juices radio etched that level. by comparison the fda 's limit for water is ten parts per billion . " consumer reports " does not suggest erasing juice from your child's diet. the american academy of pediatrics suggested diluting and limiting consumption to four to six ounces per day for children under the age of 6, no more than 8 to 12 ounces for older kids as well.

    >> tom costello, thank you. we'll talk to dr. oz and a representative from the juice industry for a moment. irvachi rangin with " consumer reports " good morning to you.

    >> good morning.

    >> 10% of the juices you tested exceeded the amount or the same amount of what was allowable for drinking water . how serious a threat is this? what is the threat of, to children from arsenic?

    >> what we're talking about is not acute health effects . we're talking about chronic health effects , we're talking about cancer ris sock the farisk, so the fact it underscores a standard to be set in juices.

    >> we heard about the report and isn't it a fair point, you can't compare apples and oranges . people don't drink as much juice as they do water. what would your response be?

    >> there's nuance to that equation. one the drinking water standards is based on a 70 kilogram person drinking two liters of water a day, not a child who weighs far less than 70 kilograms. secondly the level of concern they're talking about is not based on cancer risk so we think cancer risk needs to be taken into account, that's why our risk is actually much, much lower than 23 parts per billion .

    >> only one of the samples of the 88 you tested actually exceeded what the level of concern is for the fda . is the fda 's standard not sufficient?

    >> the fact that none of our -- not many of our samples exceeded the 23 parts per billion is not what's of concern to us. that limit is way too high. we think it needs to be much lower but our data is part of a greater pool of data including fda 's own data that shows wide vary ability including a spike of 86 parts per billion .

    >> urvashi rangan of the "consumer

TODAY contributor
updated 11/30/2011 11:56:14 AM ET 2011-11-30T16:56:14

The apple and grape juice your kids are drinking may have arsenic at levels high enough to increase their risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, according to a new study by Consumer Reports.

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A full 10 percent of the juices tested by the magazine had arsenic levels higher than what is allowed in water by the Food and Drug Administration.

“What we’re talking about here is not about acute affects,” Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist at Consumer Reports, told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie. “We’re talking about chronic effects. We’re talking about cancer risk. And so, the fact that 10 percent of our samples exceeded the drinking water standard underscores the need for a standard to be set in juices.”

The fear is that over time arsenic will accumulate in children’s bodies and raise their risk of cancer and other serious illnesses, Rangan explained.

The new report echoes a study commissioned by Dr. Mehmet Oz back in September. When Oz reported his findings on his popular television show, the FDA responded by calling Oz’s study flawed and “extremely irresponsible.”

Story: Statements made in response to TODAY report on arsenic levels in apple and grape juice

One of the issues the FDA had with Oz’s study was its failure to separate out measurements of inorganic and organic arsenic. Studies have linked inorganic arsenic to a variety of cancers. But many consider organic arsenics – especially the types commonly found in seafood - to be safe.

As far as Consumer Reports is concerned, that’s a head-in-the-sand approach.

“Questions have been raised about the human health effects of other types of organic arsenic in foods, including juices,” the magazine noted. “Use of organic arsenic in agricultural products has caused concern. For instance, the EPA in 2006 took steps to stop the use of herbicides containing organic arsenic because of their potential to turn into inorganic arsenic in the soil and contaminate drinking water.”

Beyond this, there’s evidence that organic arsenic converts into the inorganic form when chickens consume feeds that contain the compound, Consumer Reports researchers noted.

For its new study Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of apple and grape juices sold around the nation. Included among those tested were popular brand name juices like Minute Maid, Welch’s and Tropicana.

The study found five samples of apple juice and four of grape juice that had total arsenic levels exceeding the 10 parts per billion (ppb) federal limit for bottled and drinking water. “Most of the total arsenic in our samples was inorganic,” Consumer Reports noted.

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The brand with the lowest arsenic level was Welch's Pourable Concentrate 100% Apple Juice (1.1-4.3 total arsenic ppb). Other juices with low arsenic levels include: America's Choice Apple; Tropicana 100% Apple; and Red Jacket Orchards 100% Apple.

Current FDA guidelines require water to have no more than 10 ppb of inorganic arsenic. The agency also has standards for juices and those allow higher levels of the compound – 23 ppb. The level is allowed to be higher because it’s assumed that people will consume more water than juice in the course of a normal day.

Rangan took exception to that line of thinking because the standard is based on how much water an average adult will drink in a day. “It’s not about a child who weighs far less,” she told Guthrie.

The new findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that juices may not be as safe as we think. Rangan pointed to an FDA study that found arsenic levels at 86 parts per billion in a baby apple juice.

A spokesperson for the Juice Products Association said she found the new report reassuring since it found no sample that tested higher than what is currently required by the FDA for juices.

“They showed that the juice samples they tested met the Food and Drug Administration’s limit on arsenic in juice,” toxicologist Gail Charnley told Guthrie. “The toxicologists and the food safety experts at the FDA set that limit in a precautionary public health based kind of way. And the food industry is committed to meeting those limits.”

The new report might prompt the FDA to change its standards for juices. In a written statement, the agency explained its response to the new data.

"We welcome the research that Consumer Reports has undertaken and look forward to reviewing the data that formed the basis for their story and their recommendations,” the agency noted. “We continue to find the vast majority of apple juice tested to contain low levels of arsenic, including the most recent samples from China. For this reason, FDA is confident in the overall safety of apple juice consumed in this country. By the same token, a small percentage of samples contain elevated levels of arsenic. In response, FDA has expanded our surveillance activities and is collecting additional data”

If that leads the FDA to change its standards for juices then the juice manufacturers will comply, Charnley said.

That was all good news to Oz.  If we look at how the nation handled a similar problem two decades ago, it’s clear that we can make a difference for our kids, he said.

“Twenty-five years ago we had a problem with lead in America,” Oz told Guthrie. “And we have over the last generation been able to reduce by 90 percent the amount of lead that our kids are exposed to and that is found in their blood.  As a doctor it makes me much more confident that we can do the same thing for arsenic.”

Linda Carroll is a regular contributor to msnbc.com and TODAY.com. She is co-author of the new book "The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic”

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