Friday, December 16, 2011

Much Ado Or What To Do About Apple Juice?

*sorry about the spacing in this post, must be my childhood apple juice causing problems
I have to admit when I first heart the apple juice news, I thought it was sensationalized. I assumed the juice tested was an isolated batch found to be tainted. Then, Carolyn and I were talking to the GMA producers and they asked if we had seen Dr Besser and Dr Oz on that morning. We hadn't but heard Dr Besser retracted his initial statement stating Dr Oz was blowing this situation out of proportion. We knew it was time to look into this. Carolyn did some digging to find the juicy truth.

Apples have a healthy reputation but apple juice has never been known for its nutrition. Once an apple is peeled and juiced, what's left in that convenient little box is essentially sugar. Well, we thought it was just sugar anyway. Thanks to Dr Oz, who we're growing to adore around here, apple juice has been part of a whole lot of drama over the past few weeks.
In September, the Dr Oz show did a private investigation and reported unsafe levels of arsenic in all 50 brands of apple juice they tested. The FDA attacked Dr Oz's report as "irresponsible and misleading" because he didn't distinguish between organic and inorganic arsenic (more on that later). Two weeks ago, Consumer Reports followed up and tested 88 samples of apple and grape juice and found 10% had inorganic arsenic levels over the FDA limit and 25% of samples had higher lead levels than the FDA's drinking water standards. Consumer Reports found that big brands including Mott's, Apple and Eve, Great Value (Wal-Mart's house label) and Welches (grape) all exceeded the 10 pbb limit. CR has also suggested the FDA's acceptable levels for arsenic be decreased; this would render the majority of juices tested unsafe.

Arsenic sounds scary and it is. There are two kinds of the heavy metal: organic (less harmful) and inorganic (more harmful). Organic arsenic occurs in nature and we are constantly exposed to small amounts...but you still wouldn't want to drink it. Inorganic (man-made) aresenic is the more toxic type used in pesticides, herbicides and, best of all, chemical warfare. Chronic exposure to the carcinogen is associated with increased risk of bladder, kidney, lung, liver and colon cancer. Those cute little juice boxes are longing for the days when sugar was there biggest issue.

Does that mean no more apples and walnut butter (my favorite)? No, our American apples should technically be safe because the inorganic arsenic-based pesticides haven't been legal here in years. At least we're doing something right. Sort of, you see some apple juice tested from solely US apples still had elevated levels of arsenic. This is where organic becomes essential. If you're eating organic apples harmful pesticides shouldn't be an issue. The majority of America's apple juice comes from China but manufacturers often mix juice concentrates from multiple countries. Many bottles of apple juice are melting pots making it difficult to tract down its exact origin.

We're not apple juice promoters in general but I spent every day of my childhood lunch sipping Mott's (parents, I forgive you) so I get that kids love it. If you must have apple juice follow Dr Oz's rules to make it organic and from the US. Additionally read ingredient labels as apple juice is used in products you may not suspect. If the FDA thinks sipping chemical warfare compounds is safe, you must take matters into your own hands and make decisions that work for you.

It's easy to feel as though eating is a minefield with dangerous chemicals at every turn. However, there are safe foods to eat. This is just another reason to know the provenance of your food and to purchase organic and domestic when possible. 
Are you concerned about arsenic in apple juice? Have you considered that organic from other countries may not be what it is here? Do you think there's a safe level of poison in food/isn't that a strange concept?

The blog winner of our Hint giveaway was Lisa  from Healthful Sense.


  1. More and more I don't trust the FDA. I'm thankful for blogs like this one that help me stay informed.

  2. Where do you buy this walnut butter? Sorry...I pretty much stopped reading after that. Sounds so delicious! I am no longer surprised to find out that mass-produced food-things are bad for us or that they are harboring toxic chemicals. It seems to be more often the rule, mo longer the exception.

  3. Glad you posted this Lauren! I had seen the headline about arsenic in apple juice, but, honestly, hadn't read the entire report, as I very rarely buy apple juice for my kids. Here are a couple of questions (not sure if covered in the reports): Are the arsenic and lead coming from the apples themselves, or from any water that may be added to the juice? Also, were organic juices also tested, and if so, did they have any ansenic and/or lead too? Thanks! P.S. Love walnut butter too!

  4. Great post! I work with children and majority of them drink juice, especially apple. We try to discourage juice from the get go, but this is just yet another reason why.

  5. I love this ...
    "If the FDA thinks sipping chemical warfare compounds is safe, you must take matters into your own hands and make decisions that work for you."
    Sad but true! I usually don't buy apple juice but if I do I will make sure it is US originated and organic!
    Excited about the giveaway =) Thanks!!

  6. I am not a fan of apple juice and really, I'd much rather hand Maya a Snickers and have her enjoy the sugar in that instead!

    The arsenic thing? Scary.

  7. Ameena, I agree juice is wasted sugar but it shouldn't actually be poison. Lisa, email me your address and we'll get you your goodies.
    Kristen, good info for moms for sure.
    Cameo Walnut butter is Artisana (so good).
    EA- arsenic is coming from pesticides or soil.See the consumer report link for specific brands.
    Chubby- hopefully the FDA will come around

  8. Scary stuff those chemicals. Especially since it's not just straight up apple juice but potentially everything else that contains apple juice. AS if I didn't have to read labels religiously as it is :)

  9. Ironically eating an apple as I read this! Scary stuff. Thanks for investigating, I definitely saw the headline and didn't really think much about it.

    Might be an obvious answer, but is apple sauce affected as well? I guess as long as it's organic, would be safe?

  10. Now I'm extra-glad Mom didn't give me juice as a kid! She later told me she thinks juice is partially to blame for America's chunky children. haha (I'm also glad now she refused to buy me Dunkaroos and Cookie Crisp.)

  11. This is crazy to me. How can you say "a certain level of arsenic is safe"? Bizarre!!!

  12. I'm not a big fan of apple juice and to be honest not too trust worthy of the FDA until they can at least separate the food and the drug and truly regulate. Thanks for the clarification.

  13. There is arsenic in juice, and also chicken, and rice, and cotton, and... so that's a little here, and there, and there too. In a child's body, it all adds up and who knows what are - or will be - the consequences.... Very scary.
    I also question the relevance of distinguishing organic versus inorganic arsenic. If it's like mercury, whatever amount left in the human body is converted from organic (methylmercury) to inorganic after a few months. I wish I had taken more biochemical classes.

  14. Funny Natalie, we left out arsenic in chicken as we wanted to tackle one food at a time. For some reason "arsenic" gets attention but pesticides/herbicides are poisons and yes especially worrisome for children. I don't know, I sometimes think the more you know the more concerning and any more biochem I would probably be scared to eat.

  15. I can't remember the last time I bought apple juice, but this was a good wake up call about the importance of being aware of possible dangers related to our food.

  16. I always love your posts. Thanks for taking the time to summarize this all in a way I can easily understand!