While many people assume that fruit juices are healthy and safe choices for their families, recent research isn’t so supportive of that line of thought. Like sodas, fruit juices have taken health and public awareness hits in recent years over the amounts of sugar and calories they contain. However, new testing from Consumer Reports finding harmful levels of heavy metals in fruit juices has added yet another layer of concern for families buying the beverages.
Fruit Juices And Heavy Metals
According to the Consumer Reports testing, almost half of the juices tested had “concerning” levels of heavy metals. Organic juices didn’t offer lower levels.
The consumer watchdog and education entity tested an array of juices, including grape, pear, apple, and blends. Most were juice concentrates. Brands tested included retailer brands like CVS, Walmart, Target, and Dollar General as well as popular national brands like Ocean Spray, Apple & Eve, Motts, Minute Maid, Gerber, Juicy Juice, Capri Sun, and Welch’s.
Of the 45 juices tested, almost half contained inorganic arsenic, lead, and cadmium at concerning levels. All the juices in the study had at least one measurable level of a heavy metal. Grape and juice blends were the worst offenders for containing the highest average amount of heavy metals per volume.
Medical research has shown that heavy metals have the potential to harm both adults and children. Consumer Reports says that their study found seven of the tested juices had the potential to harm children drinking at least half a cup, which is about 4 ounces. For adults drinking the same amount, the study found five juices with the potential for harm.
The findings were alarming considering over 80 percent of parents with children three-years-old and younger report that they at least “sometimes” offer their children juice. Of those 80 percent, 74 percent report giving their children juice at least once a day.
What’s the potential health impacts of juice containing heavy metals?
Children’s Mercy Kansas City Director of of clinical pharmacology, toxicology, and therapeutic innovations Dr. Jennifer Lowry, who’s also the chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, says that children are especially vulnerable to harmful effects from heavy metals because of all the developmental activity taking place in the first few years of life. Amongst the known health risks are stunted and lowered IQ, cancer, ADHD and other behavioral problems, and type 2 diabetes. Exposure for adults increases the risk for cognitive problems, reproductive difficulties, type 2 diabetes, and a number of cancers.
Researchers point out in the report that the above risks are generalized, meaning each type of heavy metal exposure also carries its own unique health risks. These risks multiply over time according to levels and frequency of exposure. Lead, for example, carries fertility difficulties, hypertension risks, and increases the likelihood of heart disease. On the other hand, there’s the risk of kidney disease and bone damage with long-term exposure to cadmium.
Consumer Reports shared their findings with the juice manufacturers involved and offered them a questionnaire on what they were doing to reduce elements in their juice products. Only ten companies responded, and most of those 10 responded with a generalized statement on adherence to government guidelines and regulations. CVS and Gerber were the only respondents to answer all the questions.
The FDA’s response to the study’s findings admitted that the agency knew more needed to be done to
comprehensively reduce heavy metals in foods. They also stated that such a reduction was a high priority, especially for young children since they’re more susceptible to the potential negative health effects.