United States Food and Drug Administration has set a new regulation on the level of arsenic, a cancer causing chemical, allowed in apple juice. Apple juice is the second most favourite juice in the United States with first being an orange juice.
The new guideline from FDA comes after more than a year of heated debate in American media among manufacturers, consumer groups, health experts and millions of worried parents. Apple juice is especially popular among babies.
For example, in November 2011, Consumer Reports published its study of arsenic and lead amounts in apple and grape juice. Based on those findings, Consumers Union called on the FDA to set arsenic standards for juice and urged parents to moderate children's juice consumption.
Other comprehensive scientific inquiries have shown that arsenic is widely spread and can be found almost in everything, from tap water to your backyard soil. For decades, FDA has claimed that the levels found in commercially available apple and grape juices are acceptable and should not cause any adverse effects in both adults and children.
Still in 2008 FDA inspectors had established an advisory "level of concern" for arsenic at 23 parts per billion for apple juice. Now the agency has set a new straightforward regulation on how much arsenic is permitted in apple juice. The new apple juice limit equals the one set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for arsenic in drinking water.
This standard specifically targets inorganic arsenic — the type found in pesticides — which can be toxic and may pose a cancer risk if consumed at high levels or over a long period. Organic arsenic occurs naturally in dirt and soil and passes through the body quickly without causing harm, according to the FDA.
According to FDA, the juices that do not meet the required limits must be taken off the market, otherwise the manufacturing and selling companies will face legal charges and corresponding penalties.
Great majority of apple juices currently available on the market already satisfy the new regulation, FDA representatives say. An analysis of several apple juice brands last year showed that 95% were below the threshold.
"Overall the supply of apple juice is very safe and does not represent a threat to public health," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, in an interview with The Associated Press. "We decided to put forward this proposed action level to give guidance to industry and to assure ongoing safety and quality".
"There isn't a known threshold for the carcinogenic effect, so we assume the possibility of effects all the way down to the lowest dose," Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, said.
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, last year called for a limit as low as 3 parts per billion. While FDA refused to set such radical limitation, the group still praised the agency for taking action. FDA will now take comments on the draft regulation for 60 days before making it binding.
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