This week, the Food and Drug Administration announced a draft plan intended to lower the levels of lead in juice. The action is part of the FDA’s “Closer to Zero” action plan, which was announced last year with the aim of lowering the levels of all toxic heavy metals that children are exposed to through baby food and juice.
Research and tests have shown that fruit juice—specifically apple and grape—can contain alarming levels of heavy metals like arsenic and lead. Advocacy groups and Consumer Reports have been urging the FDA to set limits on these metals in juices for a long time.
This week’s draft plan would lower the guidance level for lead in juice from 50 parts per billion to 10 ppb for apple juice, and 20 ppb for other fruit juices.
“Exposure of our most vulnerable populations, especially children, to elevated levels of toxic elements from foods is unacceptable,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D in a statement. “This action to limit lead in juice represents an important step forward in advancing FDA’s Closer to Zero action plan, which we are confident will have a lasting public health impact on current and future generations.”
The FDA estimates that establishing a 10 ppb action level could lead to a 46% reduction in exposure to lead from apple juice in children. For all other fruit and vegetable juices, establishment of an action level of 20 ppb could result in a reduction of 19% in exposure to lead from all other juices in children. Since apple juice is the most commonly consumed juice that young children drink, the draft action level is lower than that of other juices.
Consumer Reports, however, feels that these new proposed regulations for lead in juice don’t go far enough in terms of protecting kids from ingesting heavy metals.
“These proposed levels seem weak, especially when you consider a significant majority of the industry is already meeting them,” says Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports. “These action levels seem to give credit for work already done instead of attempting to protect public health.”
Depending on how much juice is consumed—and therefore how long the exposure to heavy metals is—children are in danger of health risks from ingesting heavy metals. These risks include a lower IQ, behavior issues like attentiond deficit hyperactivity disorder, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer—among other health concerns.
The easiest way parents can reduce your children’s exposure to lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals found in fruit juices is to limit how much your children consume. The American Academy of Pediatrics reccommends limiting the amount of juice kids drink due to its high sugar levels. The AAP also recommends against giving little ones juice at all before they turn one.