Consumer Reports tested 45 popular fruit juices sold across the country—including apple, grape, pear, and fruit blends—and found concerning levels of heavy metals in nearly half of them, including juices marketed for children - who are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of heavy metals.
Persistent exposure to these heavy elements, particularly early in a child’s development can have long standing effects throughout their life; respiratory systems, their neurological systems; their immune systems are all developing, so having those exposures early those ages can have very profound effects.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has long recommended limiting amounts of juice, mainly because it contains lots of sugar—but American children still drink a lot of juice. In a recent survey of parents with young children, Consumer Reports found that more than 80% give their kids juice, potentially exposing them to heavy metals.
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In CR’s testing, it found seven juices that contain enough heavy metals to potentially harm children who drink four ounces or more per day. An additional nine juices pose risk to kids at eight ounces or more per day. Lastly, CR found five juice boxes that posed a risk to children if they drank more than one per day.
So how did these dangerous compounds get into our juice? Heavy metals are naturally found in the environment, but much of the heavy metals in food come from soil or water that’s been contaminated through pollution, mining or pesticides. -- So what can you do?
There are a lot of foods out there that have traces of these heavy elements in there. That’s why it’s really important to make sure that you feed your children a broad variety of fruits, vegetables and other whole-foods to ensure that you minimize your exposure.
Of the juice companies that responded to CR’s request for comment, most said they did their own testing and adhered to all government regulations. Some also noted that heavy metals can be naturally occurring. A full list of the results of Consumer Reports Juice Testing at CR.org/heavymetals0319
The Juice Products Association released the following statement in response to questions from NBC 7 Responds.
The Juice Products Association (JPA) is calling on Consumer Reports to stop raising unnecessary alarm about levels of heavy metals in fruit juices and other foods and to base its recommendations on transparent, substantiated science. In response to the Consumer Reports article, “Arsenic and Lead are in Your Fruit Juice: What You Need to Know,” JPA stated, “The article needlessly and irresponsibly alarms consumers. There is no scientific evidence indicating that the presence of trace levels of heavy metals in juice has caused any negative health outcomes among individuals at any life stage.”
The article claims that juice “may contain potentially harmful” levels of heavy metals. “Without any scientific basis for that claim, one could remove the word “juice” and insert any one of hundreds or thousands of foods people eat regularly as evidenced in the data published in the Total Diet Study issued by the US Food and Drug Administration,” said Patricia Faison, technical director, Juice Products Association.
Consumer Reports’ analysis is not transparent. Its article advises consumers to limit juice consumption but does not disclose the actual levels of heavy metals found in the juices they tested. The Juice Products Association has requested the testing data from Consumer Reports for its own analysis and believes that consumers should also have access to the full testing data. Consumer Reports has declined to share this information.
This media outlet is not a regulatory or scientific body, such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The “risk assessment” information from Consumer Reports does not present a scientific assessment of risk to public health and does not appear to have been peer-reviewed, as is customary with scientific research. An assessment of health risk must be based on sound science and according to data recently collected by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Total Diet Study, there is no health risk from heavy metals in juices.
“It is a fact that substances such as lead, arsenic and cadmium exist throughout the environment, and are absorbed by plants. Trace, harmless levels of these substances may exist in juice, and other foods,” said Ms. Faison. “Juice producers are very interested in reviewing sound science as a way to continuously improve our products and are committed to providing safe, high-quality, nutritious juice that meets or exceeds regulations established by the FDA for food safety. Companies conduct their own routine testing and are being innovative in their sourcing and production methods to further reduce levels. Consumers do not need to be concerned about the safety of juice.”
The Juice Products Association acknowledges that it was contacted by Consumer Reports for comment, but declined to do so because Consumer Reports refused to share the testing data with the trade association in advance of publication. “We could not comment on information that we did not have,” explained Ms. Faison.
Juice producers make safety a priority 365-days-a-year, and believe the concerns cited by Consumer Reports’ intermittent testing of selected products are unfounded. Consumers can be assured that juice is safe. Regardless of where the ingredients are sourced or where the juice is processed, all juice producers are required to manufacture products that comply with FDA regulations.