You Might Want to Think Twice About That Juice BoxEmily McClements
As moms of young children, we of course try our best to keep them as safe and healthy as we possibly can, within our power. We try to reduce the amount of toxins they are exposed to, and we encourage them to eat healthy and well rounded meals.
But a recent study by Consumer Reports has shown that one of things that many moms regard as a healthy drink for children, may actually expose them to elevated levels of two highly toxic substances.
Arsenic in juice first made headlines earlier in the fall when the Dr. Oz show reported they had found arsenic in juice samples in levels higher than allowed in bottled and public water, but the FDA dismissed it as the organic type of arsenic that they said is essentially harmless.
But then, Consumer Reports did their own study, finding that 10 percent of their samples, from five different brands of apple and grape juice, contained arsenic in levels above the federal drinking water standards, which is 10 parts per billion (ppb). And that most of that arsenic was inorganic arsenic — the kind that is a known carcinogen.
And then, to make it even worse, one in four of the samples had lead levels exceeding the federal bottled water limit of 5 ppb.
Consumer Reports also states that:
- Children drink a lot of juice. Thirty-five percent of children 5 and younger drink juice in quantities exceeding pediatricians’ recommendations, our poll of parents shows.
- Mounting scientific evidence suggests that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead even at levels below water standards can result in serious health problems.
So our children, whose small bodies are more susceptible to the effects of toxins, are drinking large amounts of juice which may be contaminated with arsenic or lead, or both, which can lead to serious health issues.
The thing that bothers me the most about this issue is that there are no federal limits for arsenic or lead in juice. Which means that the Food and Drug Administration, the department of the government whom we rely on for making sure our food is safe and free of serious known toxins, has no legal limit for these two substances in a product that our children drink on a regular basis. In fact, we are encouraged to give our children fruit juices as a part of a balanced and “healthy” diet. This is just unbelievable to me.
So, what is a concerned parent to do?
Well, one answer is to limit, or completely stop, your children’s juice intake. Now, some kids, and parents, might balk at this idea, but kids can survive without juice. At our house the only things we drink on a regular basis are milk and water, and that’s it.
I’ve always avoided buying juice because I think it’s expensive and not really as healthy as it’s made out to be. So, because we’ve never regularly had juice in our home, my kids really don’t even know what they’re missing. Sure, they get juice at Grandma’s house, or when we go out to eat, but they don’t whine and complain every time we’re at the grocery store because I’m not buying them juice, they’re just used to it.
Also, buying organic juice will not necessarily limit your exposure to arsenic or lead, because the problem stems from the soil being contaminated from pesticides, insecticides, or other industrialized uses even more than a decade ago. So, even the soil on an organic farm could still be tainted with these toxins.
Another answer, which is not really a instant answer but one I think is really important, is that we as parents and consumers need to demand that our government place regulations and limits on known toxins in our food sources. That’s what they are supposed to be there for, right? To protect us and our families from things that we are not necessarily able to protect ourselves from. It’s no secret that the government has been under attack lately for it’s lack of regulations and oversight of our industrialized food system, and I believe this is just one more symptom of that.
But, it’s not just the government who holds the blame. The food manufacturers should also take more responsibility for the quality of the food they are producing and distributing.
I was disturbed when I read this quote from the article:
The Juice Products Association said, “We are committed to providing nutritious and safe fruit juices to consumers and will comply with limits established by the agency.”
Which basically means, ‘Until the government makes us stop, we are not going to take action to make sure that our juice is really safe.’
Until we as consumers demand more, demand better, from not only the government, but also from the major food manufacturers, we are going to continue to read stories like this about poisons that have been found in our food.
For more on this study, and the effects of arsenic and lead in juice, please read the entire Consumer Reports article.
Does hearing studies like this make you reevaluate juice as a healthy drink for your child? What do you think the role of the government and food manufacturers should be in making sure products the public is consuming are safe?
Photo credit: emrank/flickr