An estimated 80% of parents of children under the age of 3 give their children juice according to Consumer Reports. And although most juices are “natural,” they have fallen out of favor with health experts because they deliver an incredible amount of sugar without fiber making them high glycemic and problematic to overall health. But has anyone been checking to see if these brands have levels of arsenic and heavy metals above the public health goal? Consumer Reports did a recent study finding that most juice brands are delivering their product with a hefty side of arsenic and heavy metals, including brands marketed to children. Concerned? You should be. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like what’s really in the orange juice in that carton & why you should throw out anything made of black plastic that touches your food, now join us as we go over the 2019 Consumer Reports Fruit Juice lab results.
Table of Contents
Arsenic & Lead Are Dangerous “Indirect Additives” In Food & Beverages
It’s important to understand that there are thousands of ingredients referred to as “indirect additives” that can show up in your food at any point in time that are not labeled and this is completely legal. The reason why this is important to understand is it’s the crux of why these types of investigations and lab studies are important. “Indirect additives” are not required to be on the label, so the only time you’ll really hear about them is when organizations like Consumer Reports tests and finds them.
Arsenic, lead, mercury & cadmium are not something you want around the family, especially young children. And the fact that juices are continuously coming up positive for high amounts of these contaminants is concerning. The health impacts make these ingredients make them far more harmful than useful in any way and therefore should be avoided. Inorganic arsenic, lead, mercury & cadmium also are persistent in your body, so the build-up over time is really the issue here. Which makes it all the more important to avoid them around children as much as humanly possible.
Arsenic and heavy metals like lead are particularly problematic to children because of the following health issues:
- Lowered IQ
- Behavior issues
- Cognitive issues
- Reproductive problems
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Type 2 Diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Bladder, lung & skin cancer
Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of heavy metals. “Exposure to these metals early on can affect their whole life trajectory,” says Jennifer Lowry, M.D., chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, as well as director of clinical pharmacology, toxicology, and therapeutic innovations at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. “There is so much development happening in their first years of life.”
What is Arsenic & Lead Doing In My Fruit Juice?
Heavy metals are natural so they are found in natural things like fruits and vegetables to varying degrees. Heavy metals enter the air, water and soil through pollution, mining, pesticides, industrial activities and then natural events like melting glaciers & volcanos. But certain pesticides that are restricted today have high amounts of lead and arsenic, and those same orchards would have residue left behind from those prior farming practices. So part of this problem has to do with legacy chemicals and how they are still in the environment. But whatever the source, fruits & vegetables often take up heavy metals from contaminated soil and water, so careful sourcing and lab testing is key to protect the public.
These “indirect additives” get into your food mostly through processing & farming methods. The problems is it’s happening way too often to be considered an “accident” now. And the FDA does not appropriately evaluate chemicals for their impact on hormones. The American Academy of Pediatrics has come down on the FDA for their allowance of certain additives inside food & beverages before being properly evaluated, so this is a consistent problem. So who is looking out for you? Organizations like Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports did a similar study back in 2013 to find out that things were worse back then, slightly better today, but much is still to be done.
What The Heck Do I Feed My Children? Mamavation’s Recommendations
I know. This is incredibly concerning and there isn’t really a place you can go to see the lab results of all the brands you are purchasing for your children. But there are things you can do to limit the overall exposure of heavy metals in your family’s diet. And you’ll want to do this because heavy metals are problematic to everyone because they build up in your body and are very hard to detox away. (Please do not try to detox heavy metals without being overseen by a medical professional. PLEASE.)
To limit exposure to heavy metals in general try and limit the following foods & cookware high in heavy metals:
- Rice, especially brown rice. (One brand that has some of the lowest heavy metals is Lundberg’s Family Farms, which is what I feed my family)
- Rice products
- Sweet potatoes
- Processed baby food
- Certain cookware. Please check out our cookware investigation for more direction here.
- Certain small kitchen appliances. Please check out our small kitchen appliance investigation for more direction here.
The Consumer Report Arsenic & Heavy Metals in Juice Study
Consumer Reports tested 45 juices using 3 samples of each product to come up with a baseline. They tested the following: 22 juices were apple juice, 13 juices were fruit blends, 7 juices were grape juice and 3 were pear juice. They also varied the locations the juices were purchased, so this represents what is happening across the country. 24 national brands were represented including 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods), Apple & Eve, Big Win (Rite Aid), Capri Sun, Clover Valley (Dollar General), Great Value (Walmart), Gerber, Good2Grow, Gold Emblem (CVS), Goya, Honest Kids, Juicy Juice, Looza, Market Pantry (Target), Minute Maid, Mott’s, Nature’s Own, Ocean Spray, Old Orchard, R.W. Knudsen, Simply Balanced (Target), Trader Joe’s, Tree Top, and Welch’s. Testing focused on cadmium, lead, mercury, and inorganic arsenic (the type most harmful to health). These contaminants represent the greatest risks and are common in food & drink. Here is some of the top level findings from the study:
- All products had measurable levels of either arsenic, lead, mercury or cadmium
- 21 out of 45 juices tested had levels that were “very concerning” to public health officials
- Almost half of the juices had elevated levels of heavy metals
- Grape juice was by far the most problematic
- Two juices had lead levels higher than 5ppb—Welch’s 100% Juice With Antioxidant Superberry and Welch’s 100% Grape Juice, Concord Grape
- Seven of those 21 juices could harm children who drink 4 ounces (½ cup) or more a day; nine of them pose risks to kids at 8 ounces (1 cup) or more a day.
- Three juices tested had cadmium levels higher than 1ppb
- Lead has gone down in juice, but it’s still concerning. In 2011 just 29 percent of juices tested had lead levels below 1 ppb, compared with 53 percent now.
- Arsenic has gone down slightly. 55 percent below 3 ppb in 2011, compared with 58 percent now.
- Five of the juices we tested pose a risk to adults at 4 or more ounces per day, and five others pose a risk at 8 or more ounces.
- No products contained elevated levels of mercury
- Products that were marketed to children did not fare better than other products
- Several organic brands had concerning levels of heavy metals
Arsenic & Lead Found in Juice Consistently With Levels Higher Than What Is Considered “Safe” In Drinking Water, So What Is the FDA Doing About It?
In 2013, the Federal Drug Administration proposed limiting arsenic in apple juice to 10 parts per billion (ppb), which is the federal standard for how much arsenic is allowed to be in your drinking water. Public health officials would feel more comfortable if that standard was closer to 3ppb or 1ppb in order to protect women and children. Yet, the proposal still needed to go through the federal rulemaking process to become a “rule” or standard. At that time, the Feds told Consumer Reports this would be done by the end of 2018. Well, 2018 came and went and we still do not have a rule in place to protect children from dangerous arsenic levels in their juice.
“We encourage the FDA to finalize the limit as soon as possible,” says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumer Reports. “And we have pushed the agency to establish an even lower threshold for inorganic arsenic in apple juice at 3 ppb. We also believe more juices should be covered, not just apple.”
When it comes to lead, the FDA set a rule for no more than 50 ppb in juice, which is extremely high. It doesn’t make very much sense to have 50 ppb as a standard for juice and yet bottled water has a standard of 5ppb, which is more in line with public health goals. The bottled water industry has been consistently exceeding the standard of lead in bottled water at 1ppb according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
Regarding cadmium, the FDA has not done anything. But Consumer Reports supports a limit of 1 ppb. In general, this is an example of where our federal government isn’t doing much at all to help families navigate these waters, so pay close attention to the brands below so you can take action to protect your family.
Mamavation Breaks Down the Consumer Report Brands & Adds Additional Recommendations Based on Pesticide Use
Mamavation broke down the Consumer Reports lab findings even further to show you what brands are avoiding not only arsenic and lead but also other hormone-disrupting chemicals like pesticides.
The Bad Guys
Levels of arsenic and lead were high enough to be problematic around children AND adults. * means that levels were so high, only half a cup would be enough to harm, which is very very concerning. We recommend you avoid all these brands.
- 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods) Organic 100% Juice, Concord Grape*
- Welch’s 100% Grape Juice, Concord Grape*
- Welch’s 100% Grape Juice, White Grape*
- Great Value (Walmart) 100% Juice, Cranberry Grape*
- R.W. Knudsen Organic Just Concord Grape Juice*
- Welch’s 100% Juice with Antioxidant Superberry*
- 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods) Organic 100% Juice, Concord Grape
- 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods) Organic 100% Juice, Grape Cranberry
- Trader Joe’s Joe’s Kids Apple Juice (single juice box)
- Minute Maid 100% Apple Juice (single juice box)
- Juicy Juice 100% Juice, Fruit Punch (single juice box)
- Minute Maid 100% Juice, Fruit Punch (single juice box)
- Mott’s 100% Juice, Apple White Grape (single juice box)
- Trader Joe’s Organic Apple Juice
- R.W. Knudsen Organic Pear 100% Juice
- Trader Joe’s Organic Apple Grape Juice
- Gold Emblem (CVS) 100% Apple Juice
- Great Value (Walmart) 100% Juice, Apple
- Gerber White Grape Juice
- Gold Emblem (CVS) 100% Grape Juice
- Great Value (Walmart) 100% Juice, Cranberry Grape
- Juicy Juice 100% Juice, White Grape
- Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice, 100% Juice
The Better Guys
These brands had lower levels of inorganic arsenic and heavy metals. Note, not one brand tested at nondetectable levels. Because apples & grapes consistently come up in the “dirty dozen” list via the Environmental Working Group, having some of the worst pesticides, we ranked all juices here.
- Apple & Eve 100% Juice, Apple Juice
- Big Win (Rite Aid) 100% Juice, Apple Juice
- Clover Valley (Dollar General) 100% Apple Juice
- Gerber Apple 100% Juice
- Market Pantry (Target) 100% Juice, Apple
- Mott’s 100% Juice, Apple Original
- Mott’s for Tots Apple
- Nature’s Own 100% Apple Juice
- Old Orchard 100% Juice, Apple
- Tree Top 100% Apple Juice
- Goya Pear Nectar
- Looza Pear Juice Drink
- Ocean Spray Cran-Apple
- Ocean Spray Cran-Grape
- Capri Sun 100% Juice, Apple (single juice box)
- Juicy Juice 100% Juice, Apple (single juice box)
- Good2Grow 100% Juice, Apple (single juice box)
- Good2Grow 100% Juice, Fruit Punch (single juice box)
- Capri Sun 100% Juice, Fruit Punch (single juice box)
- Minute Maid 100% Juice, Apple White Grape (single juice box)
The Best Guys
There are plenty of organic juices that did not make this list because they were not tested by Consumer Reports. We didn’t really have any control over that. But of the organic juices tested, here they are. There was no brand that tested at zero contaminants, but these brands tested low enough that we can call them “best” in class in terms of farming practices & arsenic and heavy metals.
- 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods) Organic Apple Juice, 100% Juice
- Juicy Juice Organics 100% Juice, Apple (single juice box)
- Honest Kids Organic Juice Drink, Goodness Grapeness (single juice box)
- Simply Balanced (Target) Organic Apple Juice, 100% Juice