Arsenic in Imported Juice: Searching for Made in USA Apple Juice

With the plentiful options available for local produce throughout America, you would think fruit juice made in USA would be readily available. Though locally grown apples are abundant, the vast majority of these apples are sold as fresh produce, resulting in an astounding 85% of apple juice sold in the US being imported. In fact, most commercial apple juice is made from concentrate imported from China and has made headlines after arsenic was discovered in many major brands.

US Apple Association

US Apple Association

Washington state used to dominate the apple juice market until the 90’s, when Chinese imports began increasing 3,000 times over the next decade. The result was many small Washington farms put out of business and the apple juice market becoming saturated with imported juices. Chinese apples have been reported to be of inferior taste and quality, making them suitable for juicing, while higher quality American apples are reserved for fresh produce.

Arsenic in apple juice first made headlines in 2011. Arsenic contamination occurs from the use of pesticides on the apple crops. The average amount of arsenic found in apple juice tested was 5 parts per billion (ppb), with over 30 brands testing over 10 ppb. The current FDA level of concern set at 23 ppb. As recently as a week ago the FDA announced it is setting new limits for arsenic levels in apple juice. These limits would set the acceptable level at 10 ppb, the same as the limit for water. Though trace levels of arsenic are found naturally in the environment, long-term exposure to higher levels like those detected in imported juices have been linked with health effects, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological defects and diabetes.

Tree Top Label

Tree Top Label

A country of origin label is mandatory for any apple juice made with imported concentrate. When I checked a few local grocery stores for made in USA options (including Trader Joe’s, Super Fresh and Whole Foods), I found that all the apple juices available were made from concentrate from China, Argentina, Brazil and USA. There was no 100% made in USA juice for sale. I did some more research online and found two options for made in USA apple juice; Treetop, sold mostly to warehouse clubs and restaurants, and Martenelli‘s, a kosher variety. If you are looking for a safe, American made option for apple juice, the other alternatives are to do your own juicing with locally sourced apples, purchase apple cider available at most farmer’s markets or buy pure apple juices not made from concentrate.

Arsenic has the potential for alarming health effects, particularly with long-term exposure. It is particularly disturbing that the current FDA standards allow for higher levels of arsenic in apple juice than in drinking water. With the knowledge in hand about imported apple juice and the safety concerns, consider American made options or juices not from concentrate. And as always, keep checking those labels!

Does your family purchase and drink apple juice? Does the news of arsenic contamination concern  you? How do  you feel about the proposed changes to the acceptable levels of arsenic? Have you found any local made in USA options for juice?