Whether you’re a fan of coffee, diet soda, bottled water, or herbal tea, you probably assume that your favorite drinks aren’t putting you in harm’s way. This sense of security is largely afforded to us by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which protects people from unsafe consumption by regulating food and beverages distributed in the country, among other things. But while we all know there are potential long-term health risks associated with certain beverages, the FDA just sent out a new warning about a popular drink you’ve likely never thought to worry about. Read on to find out what the agency is alerting consumers to now.
In 2021, the FDA established its “Closer to Zero” action plan, which is an initiative for the agency to further regulate things like beverages in order to lower dietary exposure to toxic elements and “reduce the potential for negative health effects” for consumers. The targeted elements include arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.
“Reducing levels of toxic elements in foods is complicated and multifaceted,” the FDA noted. “It is crucial to ensure that measures taken to limit arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in foods does not have unintended consequences—like eliminating from the marketplace foods that have significant nutritional benefits or reducing the presence of one element while increasing another.”
On April 27, the FDA posted a new alert about the potential for high lead exposure in apple juice and other juices. In its new warning, the agency now says that decreasing your consumption of juice would “reduce potential exposure to lead.”
Lead cannot be entirely eliminated from food supply because it “is in the environment as a naturally occurring element and from consumer and industrial products and processes,” according to the FDA. But consuming or being exposed to too much lead has potentially dangerous consequences, which is why the FDA monitors and regulates levels of this toxic element in things like foods, supplements, and cosmetics.
According to the agency, lead can accumulate in the body, so high level exposure and chronic exposure can both put you in harm’s way over time. “For adults, chronic lead exposure is associated with kidney dysfunction, hypertension, and neurocognitive effects,” the FDA warned.
With this alert, the FDA noted that it just issued new draft action levels for lead in single-strength (or 100 percent) apple juice and other single-strength juices and juice blends. The agency is proposing establishing industry-wide limits of “10 parts per billion (ppb) for lead in single-strength apple juice and 20 ppb for lead in all other single-strength juice types, including juice blends that contain apple juice,” according to the Federal Register.
“This action to limit lead in juice represents an important step forward in advancing FDA’s Closer to Zero action plan, which we are confident will have a lasting public health impact on current and future generations,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, MD, said in a statement, with the FDA adding that “the action levels recommended in the draft guidance document will help limit consumer exposure.”
The emphasis in the FDA’s proposed guidance is on how lead in juice most negatively affects children. “Exposure of our most vulnerable populations, especially children, to elevated levels of toxic elements from foods is unacceptable,” Califf said.
The FDA also noted that it issued a “lower draft action level for apple juice because it is the most commonly consumed juice that young children drink.” With the proposed changes, the agency said that it is estimated there could be as much as a 46 percent reduction in lead exposure from apple juice in children, and a 19 percent lower risk of exposure from all other juices in children.
It is already recommended that parents follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to the FDA. This guidance recommends limits on juice intake for children, advising that children “get at least half of their fruit needs each day from whole fruit rather than juice and that children under 12 months of age should not consume juice.”
READ THIS NEXT: If You’re Over 65, Never Order This for Breakfast, FDA Says.