A recent Consumer Reports story took a look at the safety of apple and grape juices, and the results were less-than-comforting. The organization tested a variety of juices including some organic options and found both arsenic and lead — neurotoxins that can cause a multitude of problems such as bladder, lung, and skin cancer as well as cardiovascular diseases. From the Consumer Reports story:
- About 10 percent of the juices that CR sampled (from five brands) showed arsenic levels that “exceeded federal drinking-water standards. Most of that arsenic was inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen.”
- 25 percent of samples had lead levels “higher than the FDA’s bottled-water limit of 5 ppb. As with arsenic, no federal limit exists for lead in juice.”
- We’re getting a large portion of our arsenic exposure from apple and grape juice. CR called the juices, “a significant source of dietary exposure to arsenic,” according to its analysis of federal health data from 2003 through 2008.
- Kids are drinking a heck of a lot of juice. According to a CR parents poll, 25 percent of kids under five drink more juice than their pediatricians recommend.
Consumer Reports says the source of the arsenic and lead is contaminated apple orchards. Soil is contaminated due to a number of reasons, For example, arsenic-based pesticides that were used in the past are still hanging around. Plus, there’s plenty of arsenic and lead in the environment from things like the production of pressure-treated wood. Even more significant, I think, (and something the CR article points out, too) is the fact that much of our apple juice is made from concentrate that comes from China, a country that still uses arsenic-based pesticides.
I have always had a few rules about juice. First, anything my kids drank had to be 100 percent juice — no high fructose, sugar-added junk for us. Second, it had to be organic. Finally, juice was an occasional thing. We drink it sparingly at playdates, at mommy-and-me classes, and always watered it down in a 2-to-1 ratio of water to juice.
These rules, I assumed, would keep my girls healthier. We would avoid pesticides and reduce our risk of obesity. After all, juice is way better than the other options out there — aside from water, of course. Two separate 2010 studies out of Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and Baylor College of Medicine seemed to support my theory.
One study found that children between the ages of two and five who drank 100 percent fruit juice had “significantly” higher daily intakes of vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium and “significantly lower intakes of added sugars compared to non-fruit juice consumers.” Juice drinkers, for some reason, also ate more whole fruits and whole grains. The other study — of children ages six to 12 — had similar results. Kids who drank juice took in more key nutrients and ate more dietary fiber, according to the study. In addition, “overall diet quality, as assessed by the Healthy Eating Index — a measure that evaluates conformance to federal dietary guidance — was higher in all fruit juice consumers assessed.”
Great. Juice is good for adults, too, as studies have found that it can reduce the risk of some cancers and is beneficial to cardiovascular health. Except, of course, when the juice contains carcinogens. So what’s a parent to do? I plan on sticking to water or orange juice for a while, or limiting my purchases to apple and grape juices that are organic and clearly marked, “Made in the U.S.A.” How about you?