Us Agency Proposes Arsenic Levels to Align with EPA Standards for Water

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Every day, millions of children drink apple juice. Over the past few years, there have been concerns over the low levels of arsenic contained in this popular juice. This past year advocates from consumer groups have been putting pressure on officials to address the issue.

As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken action. This past week the agency proposed new limits on the levels of arsenic allowed in apple juice. The agency set these limits to align with the ones set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The FDA said it has been studying this issue for decades.

The newly proposed “action level” for inorganic arsenic to be present in apple juice was suggested to be 10 parts per billion, according to an FDA news release.

This is the same level permitted in drinking water established by the EPA.

Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine indicated in the press release that currently the levels of arsenic in apple juice are typically low, but the “FDA is proposing an action level to help prevent public exposure to the occasional lots of apple juice with arsenic levels above those permitted in drinking water.”

In its analysis, the FDA said 95 percent of apple juice samples studied were found to be the below the new level.

Companies producing apple juice will have to watch the threshold to make sure their beverages do not exceed the set levels. The FDA noted that this does not often happen, but they wanted to set criteria for industries to follow. If a product exceeds the amount, under the new proposal, if passed, the product would have to be pulled from store shelves and the companies may face legal action.

“The FDA is committed to ensuring the safety of the American food supply and to doing what is necessary to protect public health,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., in the press release. “We have been studying this issue comprehensively, and based on the agency’s data and analytical work, the FDA is confident in the overall safety of apple juice for children and adults.”

Agency representatives noted in an FDA blog that arsenic is found in the environment and is present in water, air and soil. This includes both organic and inorganic forms of the substance. Additionally, human activities can increase levels of arsenic, which means it makes its way into foods and beverages.

Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic can have harmful effects on people, including cancer. Consumer groups are happy and say this is a start for putting limits on foods and drinks, as currently there is none.

According to the Washington Post, Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability for Consumers Union, said the FDA’s proposal of 10 ppb is “a reasonable first step in protecting consumers from unnecessary exposure to arsenic. It also offers an important enforcement and accountability tool for regulators and a key benchmark for apple juice manufacturers.”

At this time, the FDA is accepting public comments on this proposal for 60 days. As customary with public comments, after this period of time the new rules can become permanent.