August 14, 2022

Center for Food Safety Urges Limits to Arsenic Content in Food

Did you know that there is no limit on the arsenic level in the foods you eat? The EPA regulates arsenic in drinking water, but the FDA and USDA have no such standards. The FDA is studying the impact of arsenic in rice products and withdrew approval of arsenicals in animal feed. And the FDA is proposing guidance, which is not enforceable and has no law behind it, for arsenic content in apple juice.

Apple CiderThe Center for Food Safety (CFS) is calling for “cumulative exposure” limits for apple juice and other staple foods. They say that “although individual foods containing arsenic may be safe to eat in moderation, they are often consumed in combination, thereby presenting a risk of ‘cumulative arsenic exposure’ that could reach dangerous levels.” They sent a letter to the FDA on November 12, 2013 about the draft guidance on apple juice. CFS states that while the draft guidance is a good first step, the government must do more to protect public health. Regulations should be issued instead of an “action level” guidance document.

Arsenic is found in rice, seafood, infant formulas, and meat. It is odorless and tasteless and occurs naturally in the environment. While organic arsenic used to be considered less toxic than inorganic arsenic, we now know that organic arsenic is converted to inorganic arsenic in the body. Inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen. In addition, inorganic arsenic causes diabetes and heart disease; may cause bladder, kidney, colon, skin, lung, and liver cancers; decreases immune response; and causes declines in intellectual function. One of the problems with this issue is that the diseases caused by arsenic exposure are so common that no one looks for the connection.

Children are more susceptible than adults to arsenic exposure. At very low levels, arsenic is a disruptor of hormone function. It also passes across the placenta and can alter endocrine and reproductive organs in the developing fetus.  Children under the age of five are three times more vulnerable to carcinogens than adults. And children drink lots of apple juice.

A 2012 study conducted by Consumers Union found that 10% of apple juice samples exceed federal drinking water standards. Thirty-five percent of children under the age of five drink juice in quantities that exceed pediatrician recommendations. Scientists recommend that the arsenic limit for juice should be set by the FDA at 3 parts per billion.


  1. I find it unacceptable that we allow poisons on any level in any food products for human consumption. Even know 3 ppm or ppb may be very small amounts, but eating any poison in small amount over a steady time period will accumulate in ones system causing adverse health effects. Now if it is a case where natural accruing toxins are in some of the foods offered for consumption, then it should somehow come with a label saying what the toxin is, and people can then decide if they want what ever the natural product may be. The scary thing for me is the fact I fed both of my daughters apple juice for years. Somehow, someway we have to raise the standard on what is considered acceptable food.

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