Glass of apple juice with two apples
The FDA and Dr. Oz are squaring off over a report on his show that arsenic levels are too high in apple juice. Photo Credit: Memorino/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA DE

Dr. Mehmet Oz, or “Dr. Oz” as he’s been called since he was made famous by the Oprah Winfrey show, has set off a small brouhaha with the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is protesting a “Dr. Oz” show segment that purports arsenic levels are too high in apple juice.

Television doctor not the apple of FDA’s eye

Dr.Oz is planning to broadcast a segment in which he asserts that there is too much arsenic in apple juice, according to the Boston Globe. Dr. Oz hired EMSL Analytic Inc. to test 36 different apple juice brands for arsenic levels.

Dr. Oz asserts that arsenic levels should not exceed 10 parts per billion, the Food and Drug Administration standard for drinking water. The FDA sets the standard for apple juice at 23 parts per billion, or ppb. The FDA has struck back, saying that Dr. Oz’s testing was not entirely honest.

Row over testing standards

Part and parcel to the showdown between the FDA and Oprah’s physician protege are the testing standards. According to MSNBC, the FDA asserts that Dr. Oz is not differentiating between organic and inorganic arsenic. Arsenic, part of the periodic table of elements, occurs in trace amounts in many substances organically. Inorganic arsenic is the bad kind. If the FDA finds apple juice to contain more than 23 ppb of arsenic in juice, it is re-tested to find the inorganic arsenic concentration. EMSL only measured the total arsenic concentration.

The FDA contends that since Dr. Oz didn’t make that distinction clear, his assertions can’t be taken as meaningful. EMSL, according to the Boston Globe, tested 36 brands of apple juice. 10 of the brands of juice tested had more than 10 parts per billion, and one brand, Gerber apple juice, had 36 parts per billion. However, the FDA tested seven different Gerber samples and found arsenic levels between two and seven parts per billion, compared to the 36 parts per billion found by Dr. Oz.

Television host hinted at real problem

Dr. Oz is actually covering a topic of legitimate concern. In 2010, the St. Petersburg Times had 18 samples of popular children’s apple juice brands tested for arsenic. One-quarter of the samples contained between 25 and 35 parts per billion of arsenic. The brands with the highest arsenic concentrations were Apple and Eve Organics, Great Value, Walmart’s generic brand and Mott’s apple juice. The Times also noted a University of Arizona study where nine of 10 samples of apple and grape juices found arsenic concentrations higher than 10 parts per billion.

According to FoodSafetyNews.com, the problem is that 70 percent of apple juice in America comes from China. Only two percent of food imports are screened by the FDA. According to the St. Petersburg Times, American growers only produce about one-fifth of the nation’s apple juice.

Sources

Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/Boston/dailydose/2011/09/does-apple-juice-have-unsafe-levels-arsenic/QoHo6FYDd8bm0S5JAjvLEN/index.html

MSNBC:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44520025/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/#.TnEkpmWP-_0

St. Petersburg Times: http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/article1079395.ece

Food Safety News: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/07/arsenic-laced-apple-juice-flowing-from-china/

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