FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 19, 2011
SCHUMER CALLS ON THE FDA TO PUT IN PLACE STANDARDS FOR JUICE CONCENTRATES AFTER QUESTIONS EMERGE OVER THE LEVEL OF ARSENIC FOUND IN CHINESE- PRODUCED CONCENTRATES
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put in place clear standards for imported fruit and vegetable juice concentrates and step up inspection of concentrates from countries that use toxic, inorganic arsenic in their pesticides, or with high levels of environmental contaminants. Schumer pointed out that, although serious questions exist over the methodology used by a daytime talk show last week that covered the subject of arsenic in apple juice, there currently are no FDA standards for toxic, inorganic arsenic in juice concentrates. Many juice concentrates are now imported from China, a country infamous for lax standards and the rampant use of toxic additives and chemicals, including inorganic arsenic, in their food supply. Schumer noted that while clear standards for the level of inorganic arsenic allowed in bottled water have been established by the FDA, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricts the use of toxic, inorganic arsenic in pesticides used in the United States, the FDA has no standards for inorganic arsenic in juice and vegetable concentrates.
Given China’s history and the FDA’s previous work detaining pear juice from China with elevated levels of inorganic arsenic, Schumer noted the FDA needs to implement clearer standards for fruit and vegetable juice. Schumer today called on the FDA to provide clear, concise, science-based standards and provide greater inspection of imported juice concentrates from countries like China that use toxic, inorganic arsenic in their pesticides or have high levels of environmental contaminants in order to protect our children’s health.
“Juice is safe and good for you, and the last thing parents should do is stop giving their kids fruit juices. My family drinks them and we will continue to, but the bottom line is that the Food and Drug Administration needs to have clear standards for what is acceptable and what is not, and while standards for toxic, inorganic arsenic currently exist for bottled water, they do not exist for fruit juices,” said Schumer. “Given the terrible track record of countries like China that export the vast majority of certain juices these days, you can never be too careful, and that’s why I’m calling on the FDA to set standards for juices just like they do for water. Many kids drink more juice per day than water, so we need to take every available precaution and make sure standards are in place that consider the long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic.”
While the FDA considers organic arsenic to be essentially harmless, inorganic arsenic is a known cancer-causing agent, which is why it is not used as a pesticide for foods in the United States. However, China, known for lax oversight of pesticide use and for having significant environmental contamination, supplies 70% of America’s apple juice concentrate and 60% of America’s pear juice or pear juice concentrate. China also is a top-five exporter to the United States of several other types of fruit and vegetable juices.
The FDA has acted to prevent toxic pear juice from being imported into the United States before. In 2008, FDA officials analyzed shipments of pear juice concentrate from China and found elevated levels of inorganic arsenic. Earlier this year, citing its 2008 findings, FDA issued an import alert allowing ports to detain shipments of pear juice and pear juice concentrate from specific Chinese producers and exporters. The March 2011 import alert also states that surveillance of heavy metals in fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates from all countries is warranted.
Given the dangers of inorganic arsenic, the FDA has long held stringent standards for the levels arsenic of bottle water: a quantity of 10 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic in a batch of bottled water is considered dangerously high by the FDA. However, the FDA has not set a standard for arsenic in fruit juice. Although the FDA argues that standards for juice concentrates similar to standards in place for water are not necessary because American’s consume far less juice than they do water, Schumer argued that because juice is often consumed by children who may be more vulnerable to chemicals, greater precaution was necessary.
In a letter to FDA Administrator Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Schumer called for the FDA to put in place new standards for toxic, inorganic arsenic in fruit juice concentrates. Schumer also called on FDA to increase inspections, testing and analysis of juice concentrates imported from countries such as China that permit the use of toxic, inorganic arsenic in their pesticides, to determine whether elevated levels exist in the U.S. food supply.
Schumer pointed out that apple growers in New York and the United States do not use inorganic, arsenic in pesticides and perhaps a better option for juice makers is to use more New York grown apples in their concentrates. American farmers must comply with strict standards put forth by the EPA, USDA and FDA and produce higher quality products.
“While there is no cause for alarm and no need to stop drinking juice, a good option for juice makers and families who have concerns is to buy juice made from New York produced apples, which, like apples throughout the United States, do not use pesticides with inorganic arsenic in them.”
A copy of Schumer’s letter to Dr. Hamburg can be found below.
September 18, 2011
The Honorable Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, Maryland 20857
Dear Commissioner Hamburg,
I write to express my concern about the quality and safety of imported Chinese-produced foodstuffs, including fruit and vegetable juices and juice concentrates that may contain high levels of inorganic arsenic. I respectfully request that the FDA increase inspections, testing and analysis of imported juices and juice concentrates.
As you know, apple juice is a beverage regularly consumed by children. Over 70 percent of the apple juice concentrate used in processing and consumed in the United States is imported from China. Pear juice – the majority of which also is imported from China – is another popular children’s beverage. Given continuing horror stories of toxic food additives and chemicals in the Chinese food supply, I am concerned that the juice and juice concentrate China exports to the United States may put children at risk of exposure to cancer-causing contaminants such as arsenic.
I understand there is no present limit for the total permissible concentration of arsenic or inorganic arsenic in food or beverages. This gap in safe food guidance is disturbing, and I urge the FDA to establish a federal standard for arsenic in food and beverages.
The possibility that arsenic contamination is endangering the health of our children cannot and should not be ignored. As such, I urge the FDA to act expeditiously with respect to testing of juice imports and setting a federal standard for arsenic.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I also ask that you please keep me apprised of developments on this issue.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer