FDA and ABC slam Dr. Oz; say apple juice is safe

The Boston Globe “Daily Dose” blog reports that in response to “Oprah fave Dr. Mehmet Oz” telling viewers that there “are dangerous amounts of arsenic lurking in … apple juice,” the “US Food and Drug Administration took the unusual step of issuing a statement” that “‘small amounts of arsenic can be found in certain food and beverage products, including fruit juices and juice concentrates,’ and that ‘there is no evidence of any public health risk from drinking these juices.'” The blog points out that “the FDA has been testing such products for years to make sure they don’t fall above the allowable levels.”

The Washington Post “The Checkup” blog explains that “arsenic, which occurs naturally in many foods, comes in both organic and inorganic forms.

“ONLY the INORGANIC kind is toxic. The lab tests conducted for Dr. Oz only tallied total arsenic; they didn’t distinguish between inorganic and organic arsenic.”

The blog entry also points out that children don’t need to drink juice, arguing that “an 8.25-ounce box of apple juice isn’t much different, nutritionally, than an 8-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola.”

In a spirited showdown on “Good Morning America,” ABC Medical Consultant, Richard Besser, MD, confronted Oz on what he called “extremely irresponsible” statements.

“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.”

The AP reports that television talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz “is under fire from the FDA and others for sounding what they say is a false alarm about the dangers of apple juice. Oz, one of TV’s most popular medical experts, said on his Fox show Wednesday that testing by a New Jersey lab had found what he suggested were troubling levels of arsenic in many brands of juice.”

The FDA has “said its own tests show no such thing, even on one of the same juice batches Oz cited.”

As its lead story that evening, ABC World News reported the controversy, noting that “‘The Dr. Oz Show’ had tested three dozen samples of apple juice and say ten contained arsenic levels higher than the amount allowed in water. But the FDA did their own testing and found much lower levels,” leading the agency to conclude that “apple juice is safe.”

Oz, however, maintained that the FDA “should not allow more arsenic in our apple juice that we allow in our drinking water.”

The Hill reports in its “Healthwatch” blog that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) “on Monday asked the Food and Drug Administration to set limits on inorganic arsenic levels in juice concentrate in the US and from imports from China.”

The issue gained attention after syndicated TV medical program “The Dr. Oz Show” claimed that its investigation revealed that some samples of apple juice “contain higher levels of arsenic than are allowed in the nation’s drinking water. While Schumer and the FDA have questioned the show’s methodology, since the study didn’t discriminate between organic and inorganic arsenic, the senator tweeted that standards, similar to the ones found in drinking water, should be adopted — especially on imports from China.”

What’s the bottom line, from my perspective? The sugar in apple juice is more likely to be a problem for your children than the microscopic amount of inorganic arsenic. Because of the sugar, experts recommend no more than 6 ounces of 100% fruit juice per day for children up to age 6 and no more that 12 ounces per day in children 6-12 years of age.

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