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Popular Fruit Juices Contain High Levels Of Heavy Metals, Consumer Reports Says

Welch's grape juice was one of the items that tested positive for heavy metals during a Consumer Reports study.
Welch's grape juice was one of the items that tested positive for heavy metals during a Consumer Reports study. Photo Credit: Welch's

Could the fruit juice in your fridge contain levels of heavy metals? A new Consumer Reports investigation found that it might.

A study released by Westchester-based Consumer Reports this week found that there was measurable levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic, mercury or lead found in every single one of 45 juice products it tested from major brands sold across the country. Of those 45 juices tested, approximately half had “concerning” levels of metals.

Consumer Reports, headquartered in Yonkers, tested apple, grape and pear and fruit blends of juices that are found in both local and national retailers. According to the report, Consumer Reports chief science officer said that, “in some cases, drinking just four ounces a day - or half a cup - is enough to raise concerns.”

The juices tested include: 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods), Apple & Eve, Big Win (Rite Aid), Capri Sun, Clover Valley (Dollar General), Great Value (Walmart), Gerber, Good2Grow, Gold Emblem (CVS), Goya, Honest Kids, Juicy Juice, Looza, Market Pantry (Target), Minute Maid, Mott's, Nature's Own, Ocean Spray, Old Orchard, R.W. Knudsen, Simply Balanced (Target), Trader Joe's, Tree Top and Welch's.

According to the report, more than 80 percent of parents of children age 3 and younger give their kids fruit juice, a recent national Consumer Reports survey of 3,002 parents found. In 74 percent of those cases, kids drink juice once a day or more.

“Exposure to these metals early on can affect their whole life trajectory,” Jennifer Lowry, a physician and chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, stated in the report. “There is so much development happening in their first years of life.”

The report found that five of the tested juices pose a risk to adults who consume more than four ounces per day, and five others pose a risk at more than eight ounces.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information published a study that states, “heavy metal toxicity has proven to be a major threat and there are several health risks associated with it. The toxic effects of these metals, even though they do not have any biological role, remain present in some or the other form harmful for the human body and its proper functioning.”

On Wednesday, Consumer Reports sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb outlining the findings of their research, making recommendations about how to help limit certain heavy metals in juice products.

“We are concerned that the FDA lacks adequate limits on heavy metals in children’s food, including fruit juice,” they wrote. “With the agency’s own data and the work of Consumer Reports and other public interest groups in mind, it is critically important for the FDA to take additional steps to protect public health.

“We urge the FDA to set a goal of having no measurable amounts of cadmium, lead, mercury, or inorganic arsenic in baby and children's food, including fruit juices—and to use the most sensitive testing methods to determine the presence of those elements.”

In the letter, Consumer Reports highlighted some of their findings:

  • Every product had measurable levels of at least one of these heavy metals: cadmium inorganic arsenic, lead, or mercury.
  • Twenty-one (47 percent) of the 45 juices had concerning levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, and/or cadmium. (None contained concerning levels of mercury.)
  • Seven of those 21 juices could harm children who drink 4 ounces (½ cup) or more a day; nine more of the 21 pose risks to children at 8 ounces (1 cup) or more a day.
  • Five of the products with elevated heavy metal levels are juice boxes or pouches ranging from 4 to 6.75 ounces. These pose a risk to a child who drinks more than one box or pouch per day.
  • Ten of the juices pose a risk to adults: five of them at 4 ounces or more a day, and five more of the 10 at 8 ounces or more a day.
  • Grape juice and juice blends had the highest average heavy metal levels. Two of these products exceeded the FDA standard for lead in bottled water of 5 ppb.
  • Juice brands marketed for children did not fare better or worse than other juices.
  • Organic juices did not have lower levels of heavy metals than conventional ones

The Juice Products Association, an industry trade group, refuted the investigation, claiming it is alarming consumers because the FDA has not expressed recent concern about the levels of heavy metals in juices.

"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," they wrote in a statement. "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."

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