Questions & Answers: Apple Juice and Arsenic
December 16, 2011
What is arsenic?
Arsenic is present in the environment as a naturally occurring substance or as a result of contamination from human activity. It is found in water, air, food and soil in organic and inorganic forms.
There are two types of arsenic: organic and inorganic. The inorganic forms of arsenic are the harmful forms, while the organic forms of arsenic are essentially harmless.* Because both forms of arsenic have been found in soil and ground water, small amounts may be found in certain food and beverage products, including fruit juices and juice concentrates.
* Some scientific studies have shown that two forms of organic arsenic found in apple juice, dimethylarsinic acid (DMA) and monomethylarsinic acid (MMA), may also be a health concern.
Are apple and other fruit juices safe to drink?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been testing for arsenic in apple juice and other fruit juices for decades as part of FDA programs that look for harmful substances in food. We continue to find the vast majority of apple juice tested to contain low levels of arsenic. For this reason, FDA is confident in the overall safety of apple juice consumed in this country.
Why is arsenic being found in fruit juices?
Organic and inorganic forms of arsenic can be found in soil and ground water, and as a result, small amounts may be found in certain food and beverage products.
Arsenic-based pesticides were commonly used in United States agricultural production up until 1970, when more effective substances became available. As a result, trace levels of organic and inorganic forms of arsenic can be detected in some agricultural settings, which may lead to small amounts of arsenic in certain foods and beverages.
Can consumers choose apple juice with less arsenic by looking at where it is made?
The juice sold by any one company can be made from concentrate that is literally sourced throughout the world, including U.S. domestic sources. For example, Asia and South America are major suppliers of apple juice concentrate. Even if a company buys concentrate from only one supplier in a country, such as Argentina, that supplier may be getting juice from a dozen or more different farms within Argentina. If you test enough juice from such a supplier, you will find some lots with higher amounts of arsenic than others. This could be due to different amounts of arsenic in orchard soils.
Testing a small number of samples of different brands of juice only provides a snapshot in time of how much arsenic was in a particular lot of juice. Without a long term survey of many lots of juice from different companies, there is not sufficient data to say one company has lower amounts of arsenic in its juice than any other company.
Does organic apple juice have less arsenic than non-organic apple juice?
The FDA is unaware of any data that shows that organic juice tends to have less arsenic than non-organic apple juice. Even organic apples come from trees that grow in soil that may contain arsenic. The FDA is not aware of any data that shows a difference in the amount of arsenic found in organic juice vs. non-organic juice.
Has FDA set a standard for arsenic in fruit juice?
No. Available scientific evidence indicates that if arsenic occurs, it almost always does so at very low levels. But FDA is collecting all relevant information to evaluate and determine if setting guidance or other level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice is appropriate.
Has FDA set a standard for arsenic in bottled water?
Yes. The maximum level of arsenic allowed in bottled water is 10 micrograms in one liter of bottled water or 10 parts per billion (ppb). As required under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, FDA evaluated and adpted EPA's standard of 10 ppb for arsenic in public drinking water as the standard for bottled water for the protection of public health.
Why is there a standard for arsenic in bottled water but not in fruit juice?
As stated above, we are considering setting a standard.
The FDA first tests the juice sample for total (organic and inorganic) arsenic to see if the levels are too high. When test results show total arsenic levels are too high, the FDA re-tests the sample for its inorganic arsenic content, the type of arsenic considered harmful to humans. Some scientific studies have shown that two forms of organic arsenic found in apple juice, dimethylarsinic acid (DMA) and monomethylarsinic acid (MMA), may also be a health concern, and because of this, the FDA is considering how any possible health risk from these two forms of organic arsenic should be evaluated. Moreover, in our most recent analysis of 94 samples of arsenic in apple juice, we found only trace amounts of DMA and six samples (6.2 percent) with detectable amounts of MMA.
What is the FDA doing to protect the public against arsenic in fruit juice?
The FDA collects and tests for arsenic, including inorganic arsenic, in fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates made in the U.S. as part of FDA programs that look for harmful substances in food. The FDA considers test results for inorganic arsenic on a case-by-case basis, and takes regulatory action as appropriate.
In December 2011, FDA released the results of its latest data collection and analysis for arsenic in 94 samples of arsenic in apple juice. Once again, these results show that while the individual levels of arsenic vary, the tested apple juice samples contained levels of arsenic that are low, with relatively few exceptions. In fact, 95 percent of the apple juice samples tested were below 10 ppb total arsenic; and 100 percent were below 10 ppb for inorganic arsenic.
The FDA also currently has an Import Alert for surveillance of arsenic, including inorganic arsenic, in fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. An Import Alert is a measure used by FDA to keep potentially dangerous products out of the U.S.
Is the arsenic in apple juice predominantly organic or inorganic?
Due to limited data available to answer this question, in October 2011, FDA collected and analyzed 94 samples of apple juices available for sale in the United States. Results from this data indicate that there are relatively low levels of arsenic in apple juice, with 95 percent of the apple juice samples tested being below 10 ppb total arsenic, but that the arsenic in these samples was predominantly the inorganic form.
Did the FDA test any of the samples tested by the Dr. Oz Show?
On September 10-11, 2011, the FDA completed laboratory analysis of the same lot of Gerber apple juice that was tested by the Dr. Oz Show, as well as several other lots produced in the same facility. The FDA's testing detected very low levels of total arsenic in all samples tested. These new results were consistent with the FDA's results obtained in the FDA's routine monitoring program and are well below the results reported by the Dr. Oz Show. The FDA has concluded that the very low levels detected during our analysis are not a public health risk and the juice products are safe for consumption.
Where can I go to get more information?
FDA Widens Look at Arsenic in Apple Juice