Concerned about the levels of inorganic arsenic in apple juice, Sen. Charles Schumer urged the Food and Drug Administration Sunday to set limits on how much of the toxic substance can be allowed in juices and juice concentrates.
While clear standards for permissible levels of inorganic arsenic - a proven carcinogen that is differs chemically from organic arsenic - exist for bottled water, there are no regulations concerning fruit and vegetable concentrates, Schumer complained.
While the use of inorganic arsenic in pesticides is banned in the U.S., 70% of America's apple juice concentrate and 60% of its pear juice and pear juice concentrate comes from China, where standards and enforcement concerning toxic additives to food products are lax.
Schumer called on the FDA to increase inspections and testing of imported products to determine if unsafe levels of contaminants exist in the U.S. food supply.
The apple-juice kerfuffle was ignited Wednesday when Dr. Mehmet Oz aired a segment on his syndicated talk show showing that 10 samples of apple juice tested had arsenic levels higher than those permitted for drinking water.
Even though Schumer asked for more regulation, he doesn't agree entirely with Oz. The senator joined critics who complained that the Oz report is flawed because it mixed apples and oranges, conflating naturally occurring organic arsenic with inorganic arsenic, which is much more dangerous.
Oz defenders contend that organic arsenic may not be as safe as the FDA believes and that special vigilance must be taken with products consumed by children.
On its website, the FDA assures that imported juice products are tested and if the agency finds too much inorganic arsenic in any juice, it will take steps to remove that product from the market.
Schumer managed to insert a bit of local boosterism into his plea for more stringent regulation.
While there is no cause for alarm and no need to stop drinking juice, a good option for juice makers and families who have concerns is to "buy juice made from New York produced apples, which, like apples throughout the United States, do not use pesticides with inorganic arsenic in them," said the New York senator.