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Entries in Arsenic (4)

Thursday
Feb162012

Arsenic Found in Organic Foods Sweetened with Brown Rice

Zoonar/ThinkstockUPDATE: The toddler formulas that are implicated in Thursday's study have been identified as Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Toddler Formula and Baby’s Only Organic Soy Toddler Formula.  Both are made by Nature's One.

[ CLICK HERE TO READ THE COMPANY'S RESPONSE ]

(HANOVER, N.H.) -- If you're shopping organic and see brown rice syrup listed first among ingredients, you may want to think twice. That product could have high levels of potentially toxic arsenic, Dartmouth researchers reported on Thursday.

A team led by environmental chemist Brian P. Jackson found what Jackson called "dangerous" amounts of arsenic in organic powdered toddler formula whose top ingredient was brown rice syrup.  That formula contained six times more arsenic than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for the water supply.

Jackson and his colleagues also reported elevated arsenic levels in some brown rice-sweetened cereal bars, energy bars and energy "shots" consumed by endurance athletes, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The results, which do not identify any products by name, follow recent reports about trace levels of arsenic in apple juice and previous reports of arsenic in rice.

Given that organic brown rice syrup, "may introduce significant concentrations of arsenic to an individual's diet," the researchers saw "an urgent need for regulatory limits on arsenic in food."  Dietary sources of arsenic represent "potentially a big public health issue that has not been taken on board," Jackson told ABC News.

The Food and Drug Administration has been sampling and testing a variety of "more conventional" rice products, including rice crackers and rice cereals, "to evaluate what the risk is and what the levels are in these products" said Siobhan DeLancey, a spokeswoman for the agency's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Depending on what the testing reveals, she said there was "a possibility" that the agency would set a threshold for arsenic levels in rice.  The FDA previously set a "level of concern" of 23 parts per billion of arsenic for fruit juices, the only other food to have such a designated level.  The EPA standard for arsenic in drinking water is 10 ppb.

"The bottom line is this shows there's a need for FDA to figure out some limits on this and put that out there," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C.  She said FDA needs to take a broader approach toward arsenic in what we eat, rather than going "food by food."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov302011

Arsenic in Juice: New Study Prompts Action

Schnare & Stief/StockFood Creative(YONKERS, N.Y.) -- An investigation into trace amounts of arsenic found in bottled juice has prompted advocacy group Consumers Union to urge the Food and Drug Administration to lower its standards for arsenic levels in juice drinks.

The results of the study released Wednesday indicate that 10 percent of juices tested had total arsenic levels greater than the FDA's standard for drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb), while 25 percent of juices also had lead levels higher than the FDA's bottled water limit of 5 ppb.

Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of popular brands of grape and apple juice sold in the United States, including Mott's, Minute Maid and Welch's.  Most of the arsenic detected in Consumer Reports' tests was a type known as inorganic, which is a human carcinogen.

The testing and analysis has led Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, to urge the federal government to establish a standard of 3 ppb for total arsenic and 5 ppb for lead in juice.

"We're concerned about the potential risks of exposure to these toxins, especially for children who are particularly vulnerable because of their small body size and the amount of juice they regularly consume," said Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director of safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports.

Although federal standards exist for arsenic and lead levels allowed in bottled and drinking water, there are no limits defined for fruit juices, a mainstay of many children's diets.

In a statement to ABC News regarding the new Consumer Reports data, the FDA -- which stated in September 2011 amid public controversy that apple juice consumption poses little or no risk -- said it is now gathering further information.

"A small percentage of samples contain elevated levels of arsenic.  In response, the FDA has expanded our surveillance activities and is collecting additional data," the agency said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep192011

Not Just Arsenic: Scientists Spot Many Chemicals in Food

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- People may have been surprised to find out this week that apple juice contains arsenic, but scientists say that many foods contain trace levels of compounds that sound scary but are virtually harmless at low levels.

"Arsenic is something we all take in," said ABC News' chief health and medical correspondent, Dr. Richard Besser.  "We take in small amounts of a lot of things that if you take in large quantities are dangerous, but in small amounts aren't."

Besides arsenic, the Food and Drug Administration keeps tabs on a variety of chemicals and compounds that are present in small amounts in foods.

Dioxins, chemical compounds that come from burning fuels and waste incineration, can be found in trace levels in foods with animal fats, like meat, fish and dairy products.

Acrylamide, a chemical linked to cancer and nerve damage with high exposure, accumulates in small, harmless amounts in potato or grain products when they are fried, roasted or baked.

Fish and shellfish are safe to eat, even though they certain types contain mercury.

Even bananas contain low levels of radioactive potassium.

The FDA says that consumers are in no danger from these compounds and should eat a balanced diet made up of many foods.

Dr. David Acheson, who directs food and import safety for Leavitt Partners, said it's important to understand how much of those compounds is safe to consume.

"If you analyze food down to the molecular level, you'll find many things that are really scary if you take them literally," Acheson said.  "It's not just the presence or absence of a compound that's important, but the levels at which they are present."

Dr. Mehmet Oz caused a stir last week by saying on his national program, The Dr. Oz Show, that many popular brands of apple juice contain arsenic.  Scientists and the FDA agree that apple juice does contain arsenic, but add that the element is present in such small amounts that it is harmless.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep152011

Apple Juice Showdown: Dr. Oz Arsenic Claim Questioned

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In a spirited showdown on Good Morning America Thursday, ABC News senior health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser confronted television's Dr. Mehmet Oz on what he called “extremely irresponsible” statements made on The Dr. Oz Show Wednesday concerning arsenic in apple juice.

“Mehmet, I’m very upset about this, I think that this was extremely irresponsible,” Besser said.  “It reminds me of yelling fire in a movie theater.”

“I’m not fear-mongering,” Oz fired back.  “We did our homework on this risk.”

Oz’s appearance on GMA is the latest development in a story that likely has many parents on edge about whether to continue serving apple juice to their children.

[Scroll down to watch Dr. Oz's appearance on ABC's Good Morning America.]

Oz and the show’s producers drew criticism for Wednesday’s episode of The Dr. Oz Show, which focused on the dangers of trace levels of arsenic present in many popular brands of apple juice.  Juice manufacturers, government regulators and scientists said the results of what the program called its “extensive national investigation” were misleading and needlessly frightening to consumers.

According to The Dr. Oz Show, a laboratory tested “three dozen samples from five different brands of apple juice across three American cities” and compared the levels of arsenic to the limits of arsenic for drinking water set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  They found 10 samples of juice with arsenic levels higher than the limits for water.

In a statement, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said, “There is no evidence of any public health risk from drinking these juices.”

The FDA sent a letter to The Dr. Oz Show on Sept. 9 -- five days before the show was to air -- which warned that airing the show would be “irresponsible” and “misleading” because the testing ignored that there are two forms of arsenic: organic and inorganic.  Organic is generally thought not to be harmful to health, whereas inorganic is.

The FDA also conducted its own tests of the apple juice investigated by The Dr. Oz Show.  In some of the very same lots of juice tested for the show, the FDA reported finding very low levels of inorganic arsenic; six parts per billion at most, even lower than the 10 parts per billion recommended by the EPA as a safe level for drinking water.

Oz acknowledged that “no children are dying from acute lethal arsenic poisoning,” stating instead that his concerns were about the long-term effect of arsenic exposure.  Still, Besser said Oz was implying to parents that drinking apple juice poses a risk to kids’ health.

“You have informed parents they are poisoning their children,” he said, a charge that Oz denied.

“We just want to have the conversation, and we’ve been trying to make this conversation happen,” Oz said.

Oz also added, “I would not take apple juice out of my kids’ containers now.

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