High Levels of Arsenic Found in Fruit Juice

A few months ago, when Dr. Oz announced he’d found high levels of arsenic in various kinds of commercially available fruit juice, he was roundly criticized for fear mongering. After all, his findings hadn’t been confirmed — until last week. Consumers Union, the group that publishes Consumer Reports, conducted its own test on 88 juice samples from popular grocery store brands. A shocking 10% contained levels of arsenic higher than those permitted in drinking water.

Why am I not surprised?

We really can’t trust the industrialized food system to “keep us safe.” If anything, food produced within this system is even more dangerous. It’s far too easily contaminated and produced on too large a scale.

So, perhaps more relevant to me than the knowledge that juice we don’t drink is contaminated with high levels of arsenic is what the Juice Products Association said in its response to the study:

Consumer Reports and other media outlets erroneously compare juice to the standards for drinking water. Juice is not water. To compare the trace levels of arsenic or lead in juice to the regulatory guidelines for drinking water is not appropriate because regulatory agencies have set lower thresholds for drinking water than for food and other beverages because people consume larger amounts of water.

People consume larger amounts of water?

Hmmm. Perhaps so.

But what about the vast majority of children who consume juice?

About 35 percent of children 5 and younger drink more juice than pediatricians recommend. “Kids are known to consume more juice per pound of body weight than adults,” Dr. Jerome Paulson, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics council on environmental health, tells The Salt. “So, if you’re going to set a standard, you have to consider their health.” (source)

Setting a standard for arsenic levels safe enough for children is just what the Consumers Union is proposing after publishing their findings.

The organization recommends that federal standards be set at 3 ppb for arsenic and 5 ppb for lead. Using these levels, 59 percent of the samples tested would not be safe to drink.

“We calculated that level so that if a child drank 4 to 6 ounces of juice daily, they would be under the daily limit of arsenic intake,” Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, tells The Salt. “It would give them a one in 1000 risk for skin, bladder and lung cancer.” (source)

So, if we are to follow the reasoning of the Juice Products Association, we shouldn’t worry about arsenic in juice because people don’t drink enough juice for it to matter. The standards are too high, they say.

But according to Consumers Union, children drink far more juice than they’re supposed to, and even when drinking it at levels pediatricians recommend (4-6 oz daily) the arsenic levels are enough that 59% of the juice samples are unsafe. The standards are too low, they say.

Why is the Juice Products Association even arguing with this?

Why are they fighting to keep standards which put children at increased risk for cancer? Are they really that heartless?

You bet!

Let me tell you a story.

My husband is a roofing contractor. Not long ago, he had a conversation with one of his customers that went something like this:

Husband: So, if you don’t mind my asking, what do you do for a living?
Customer: Oh, well a lot of people cringe when I tell them.
Husband: My curiosity is piqued. What is it? How can it be that bad?
Customer: I’m a lobbyist. BUT I’m THE GOOD KIND.
Husband: Well, I understand the need for lobbyists. What is it you lobby for?
Customer: I help feed the world. I work for Monsanto. We develop seeds and agricultural products that make it easier and cheaper to grow more food.

That man — the lobbyist for Monsanto — was a face for the corporation, a heart intent on good who honestly believed his company’s hype. He had a wife. Kids. Pets. A meaningful job. He went to church, probably paid his taxes on time, and obviously patronized local businesses.

Individual people working within behemoth corporations may have hearts. They may actually care that children in Africa are starving, or that children right here in America are being poisoned by arsenic.

But corporations? Can a large corporation care?

Absolutely not. That’s because a corporation isn’t a partnership of individual people working together. (Those are called partnerships, by the way.) Rather, a corporation is a single entity. Legally, a corporation is a person. There are no legally liable individual people within corporations. Instead, the corporation itself is legally liable as a legal person. Shareholders within the corporation are limited in their liability to the size of their financial investment.

What does this mean for us?

It means that corporations are organizations which, by their very nature, MUST prioritize profit above all else since that’s what being incorporated is about (making money for shareholders who’ve invested in a company). It means that the people who invest in corporations aren’t legally liable for the corporation’s mistakes.

In other words, there’s virtually no accountability for corporations, no reason for them to check themselves — other than those things which affect their bottom line.

Do you think the arsenic levels found in fruit juice will affect the corporations which have joined together to form the Juice Products Association? Do you think that concerned moms are actually going to stop buying their children juice? In large enough force to affect the profits of these food industry behemoths?

Yet again we get to the heart of the issue. You can not trust industrialized food, period.

Even so-called “good” and “natural” and “organic” brands of juice had high levels of arsenic that went beyond the standards recommended by Consumers Union — including 365 Everyday Value Organic 100% Apple Juice by Whole Foods, Gerber Organic 100% Apple Juice, and Joe’s Kids 100% Apple Juice by Trader Joe’s.

These are supposed to be “the good guys.” These are supposed to be corporations that care about the environment, their employees, and the safety of their food. They talk a lot of good talk, and even walk a lot of “good walk.” They often support local farmers and artisan food makers.

…And, yet!

Can I say it again? You can’t trust industrialized food, period.

Know your farmer. Know your food.


  1. says

    I was cut off making a comment… I wonder why? Quickly I will say Gmo foods will be labeled in the future as they have been in Europe. It’s a right to choose what type of foo
    d you want. Why was there such a stink about organic foods? The big companies want to eat up mom & pop food companies. They want free reign on labeling. Is it truly organic will be called into question.

  2. David Grudem says

    The question I have has not been answered by any of these “scary” articles and TV news-scares…Simply explain where the arsenic comes from and how food could be grown and processed so that less will end up in our bodies. Anyone??????

    • KristenM says

      There are a lot of theories, but no real answers. The most prominent theory is that it comes from lingering pesticides and herbicides in the soil. The reason it’s more prominent in apple juice is because apple trees LIKE arsenic more than other fruit trees.

    • Dusti says

      Maybe I am wrong, but I seem to remember learning something about the seeds having arsenic in them (naturally)…so it would follow that the way the apples are processed would determine the amount of arsenic in the juice. I watched a family farm process their apples into apple cider with an old fashioned apple press. I don’t think any of the seeds made it into the juice nor where they pulverized to release the possible arsenic in the seeds. It would be interesting to see how much arsenic is found in juice processed in this way.

  3. says

    Wow!!! I completely was blown away by the Monsanto lobbyist. Didn’t see that coming.

    I saw this very topic on the news Sunday morning and was going to blog about it. On Fox news they had 2 MDs debating the safety of the levels of arsenic found in fruit juice. One doc said that something should be done about this. The other one said that there are such tiny amounts that our bodies will take care of it. His solution is to not allow your children to have more than a 1/4 cup of juice per day!!!

    Seriously???? THAT is your solution? Okay mister, Here’s a teaspoon of arsenic to feed YOUR child. Would you do it? I don’t think so.

    • KristenM says

      Okay mister, Here’s a teaspoon of arsenic to feed YOUR child. Would you do it? I don’t think so.

      My sentiments exactly!

  4. Carolina says

    Where does the arsenic come from? Where is the lead coming from? I don’t understand how it could end up in juice. Interesting story, scary really.

    • KristenM says

      See my reply to David above. They think it’s in the fruit, but more concentrated because it’s juice. (And the fruit is getting it from the soil.)

      • A says

        Think about it… one cup of juice comes from how many apples? 3? 5? So instead of eating just one apple’s worth of pesticides, you are getting the pesticides from all of the apples it takes to make one glass of juice.

  5. Heather says

    Though not a fan, when the original Dr. Oz story aired I had a good chuckle a the response from the feds: that he only tested for the presence of arsenic and not for the *type* which they claimed to be benign organic arsenic. This from the people who wage a crusade on raw dairy because of the presence of bacteria but never differentiating between beneficial bacteria and pathogens. FAIL. Then the Consumer Report testing hit the media and it turns out that benign organic arsenic turned out to be carcinogenic inorganic arsenic. DOUBLE FAIL.

  6. says

    I watched that whole thing that Dr. Oz did a while back. People should buy a juicer and make their own juice.

    Like you said, “know your farmer”

    Thanks for putting out this info!

  7. Emily says

    so, what is a safe juice brand? Besides making it at home, I just don’t have the means to go so far as to make my own juice. Is there a organic brand that is known to be within the safety standards?

    • KristenM says

      Well, you could always go the healthiest route and simply not drink juice. Juice is basically sugar water; it’s all the fruit’s sugar without any of the fiber, pectin, and other goodies that slow the sugar’s digestion when the fruit is eaten whole. Plus, it takes anywhere from 3-5 fruits just to make a cup of juice, so the sugar is really concentrated.

      • says

        We stopped drinking juice about 6 months ago. My kids only drink kombucha, water, and milk {the alternative kinds as we are casein-free b/c of allergies}. I’d rather them eat an apple than drink of cup of juice.

        I read it takes 8 apples to make a cup of juice. That’s a high load of FRUCTOSE!

      • Emily says

        I don’t really drink juice, I just use a tiny amount to flavor my Kombucha. I have a jar of cranberry juice that’s lasted me a month now, but now I wonder if I need to throw it out.

  8. Jaytee says

    I have to say that I like most of what is posted here on Food Renegade, but I believe this is an outright unnecessary scare brought about by a lack of understanding of arsenic. Look up arsenic. Yes, it is a poison, but it’s also one of the basic elements. It occurs naturally in many areas of the world. Of course trace amounts of it will exist in things, even organic things. Yes it is used in insecticides, and it was commonly used for preserving wood (ever hear of pressure treated wood?) and it is also used in electronic devices and until recently, optical glass production. You’re going to get trace amounts of it in fruit, depending on where and how it was grown – it cannot be eliminated in some cases. Should fruit juices be tested for arsenic and should there be a low acceptable limit for it? Yes, absolutely. But there is no point in causing panic among people with limited knowledge. IMO, you shouldn’t be feeding your kids fruit juice anyway. It’s mostly just empty sugar calories, whether the juice is all natural or not. Give your kids predominately water to drink and the occasional hit of dairy. Eat fruit whole, the way it was designed. Don’t go all ape over corporations as arsenic existed in the soil before any of us did. Not everything that is “natural” is good. BTW, the “story of stuff” and all that socialist/communist propaganda, is funded by George Soros. And it’s not accurate at all. It is has been thoroughly debunked.

    • Heather says

      thanks for your comment. I believe that water should be pressed more than fruit juice in kids. I have to force my childern to drink water inbetween all other drinks, they don’t like it but I keep telling them it is healthier than everything else. Plus, if I have fruit in a bowl readiliy available they don’t even want the juice. But I do have to say hearing what is in juice even if I have been drinking it all along is scary, do we really know and do we have a way of keeping the bad stuff out?? I have always wondered that.

  9. Maria-Elena says

    Wait until they check out the applesauce. Even if you get your apples from a local farmer and make your own, it could have arsenic in it if the apple trees are growing in soil that has arsenic. This was one of the pesticides of choice for many years (along with copper and lead). If the trees are growing in old orchard land, chances are the levels of these heavy metals may be high. And because they are HEAVY metals, they do not dissipate in the soil.

    Wait, it gets better. You know what happens when these old orchards are razed over and turned into housing developments? Your kids are playing in dirt that is full of heavy metals. And you can bet that the realtor who sells you the house won’t be warning you about this potential. Even if you are lucky and find out, you can’t just test one patch of ground because the patch you test may be okay but then the one next to it is off the charts (because that was where they stored the chemicals or offloaded extra spray after the run). Ask me how I know…

  10. Jennifer says

    How do you get to the point to “know your farmer, know your food” unless you grow it yourself? I realize I might not be very good at research, but I’ve been looking for raw milk FOR 6 MONTHS (I live in MO) and can’t find it. I don’t want to buy from the store. My husband and I are considering moving so we can grow our food/raise our meat because I just haven’t been able to find what I want to have here. It seems like everyone else on the internet is able to make due no matter where they live, yet I can’t seem too. It’s so frustrating that I want to scream. I feel incompetent, and even worse, that I now know better than to buy from a store, I still find myself having to go there.

  11. says

    We were shocked to find our son had ‘moderately toxic’ levels of arsenic in his system last year. We’ve learned a LOT since then! We’re not big juice drinkers because of the sugar, but we think it came back to arsenic-treated chickens in commercial chicken houses. Maybe it was the occasional juice…

    “Know your farmer. Know your food.”

    Sounds great, but even buying from friends or growing your own and juicing at home doesn’t guarantee any freedom from these metals. You would have to test it yourself or find a farmer who does. Any testing resources to link to?

    I just think it’s dangerous to give people the assumption that homemade or locally-produced is automatically safe. It is not. We live in Africa where many a home brew gone wrong kills the whole neighborhood. We’ve had brucellosis. These laws for the food industry really did serve a purpose at one time. They have just gone too far. I’d like to see more user-friendly testing that the average family can use.

  12. Heidi says

    Articles like this frustrate me. I buy all natural and organic foods for my family from our grocery store. I cannot farm all of our own foods in my tiny backyard in my subdivision. I live in a small town where there aren’t tons of health conscious people with organic farms where I can “know my farmer”. I’m just not sure what you’re proposing people like me do. These articles make it sound like even a mom like me isn’t doing enough, and it just exhausts me to think about.

  13. says

    That is horrifying. But I should not be surprised. It seems that the people who run the industrial food system are quite willing to have poison in their products for profit.

    Nobody should buy industrial food. Nobody. Yes, it can be difficult, but it is necessary.

    And do not count on our totally worthless,corrupt government to protect us. The agencies that are supposed to regulate the food industry are run by ex employees of the industrial food industry. These “public servants” do not serve the public, but the corporations.

    They waste their resources on farm raids and persecuting raw milk sellers, while ignoring the poison in industrial food.

  14. Andrea says

    I dodnt read all of the comments, and don’t often drink juice unless I have a HUGE craving…but what I want to know is…
    WHAT BRANDS, WHAT STORES, WHAT PRODUCTS? I know that there is likely legality issues in stating the names and stuff. but what is truly scary is that I am scared to drink any juices at all now.

  15. says

    This is really worrisome for children with autism, ADHD, and other developmental delays – as they are often the children most susceptible to toxicity (and often have poor detoxification ability). They drink a lot of juice as well. When they can’t detoxify it all, it causes damage – and arsenic is a neurotoxin (among many other toxic effects).

  16. renae says

    I was wondering what about applesauce? I make homemade applesauce,and this year our local organic orchard did not get a good crop due to the weather, so I had to get other apples. I make the applesauce at home, but I am worried that it could be just as bad as store bought, just without the sugar. What do you think?

    • Maria-Elena says

      Ideally, in order to know what is in the apples you bought, you would have them tested. Since that is not always feasible, the next best step is to learn about the orchard from where they came. How long has it been an orchard? If the answer is more than 30 years, there is a good likelihood that it was once sprayed with arsenic, copper, lead and DDT as pesticides. If so, what have they done to ameliorate the pesticide residues in the ground? Do they test the soil and how often? Here is an article I found from 2007 about this issue in Santa Clara county, CA> http://www.mercurynews.com/search/ci_7217803?source=email

  17. Michael Cohen says

    Is the almost homeopathic dose of Arsenic in fruit juice really the issue? I think the real issue is the fact that Apple juice has as much or more sugar per serving than coca cola. Our children are not sick with Arsenic poisoning, they are obease and diabetic.

  18. Janelle says

    I just realized that we do a lot of apple cider vinegar… I wonder if that has ever been tested, we only buy the raw organic kind. Could we be getting a dose of arsenic from that too? I wish people weren’t so irresponsible with pesticides, just because it gets rid of something that you don’t want doesn’t mean we should spray it everywhere!

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