FDA to Set New Limit on Arsenic in Apple Juice

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on July 12, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you, like Dr. Oz, feel there's too much arsenic in apple juice, you can relax a bit. The FDA wants to set a new limit on the level of arsenic allowed in apple juice, after more than a year of public pressure from consumer groups worried about the contaminant's potential effects on children.

If you have an opinion on the matter, the FDA would like to hear from you.

Arsenic in Apple Juice

Studies have shown that apple juice contains very low levels of arsenic, a cancer-causing agent found in everything from water to soil to pesticides, reports The Associated Press.

The FDA standard specifically targets inorganic arsenic, the type found in pesticides which can be toxic and may pose a cancer risk if consumed at high levels or over a long period.

The New Limit

Under the new regulation, apple juice containing more than 10 parts per billion of arsenic could be removed from the market. Previously, the FDA set the "level of concern" at 23 parts per billion.

In plain English: It's practically business as usual.

An FDA analysis of almost 100 apple juice samples last year found that 95 percent were below the new level. Most importantly, 100 percent of the samples were below the new level for inorganic arsenic, the carcinogenic form of arsenic.

The FDA's new number is based on lifetime exposure to arsenic and the potential for long-term cancer risk, but errs on the side of caution. "Overall the supply of apple juice is very safe and does not represent a threat to public health," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, in an interview with the AP.

Even though the vast majority of juices on the market are already below the threshold, companies should be proactive. Businesses that fail to comply with the new regulation could face legal action.

Public Comment

Under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which President Obama signed into law in 2011, the FDA is accepting public comment on the draft regulation for 60 days before it becomes binding.

Don't worry, you don't need a Twitter account to make a comment.

The FDA issues a proposed rule, which is published in the Federal Register (FR) as well as the FDA's official docket, so that members of the public can review it and send their comments to the agency.

The FDA first considers the comments received during the comment period. It then considers revising the rule based on its review of the comments and issues a final rule.

In the preamble to the final rule, the FDA discusses the significant comments received on the proposed rule. This final rule is also published in the FR and FDA's official docket.

You can read the FDA's draft guidance for arsenic in apple juice here. The document also includes instructions on how to submit your comments.

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