In grade school we at one point watched the film version of the classic play Arsenic and Old Lace, a rather macabre tale about two quaint older women who poison old homeless men that have no family to ease their suffering. Their poison of choice is arsenic, and the old men are buried in the basement.

While it is all in good fun to laugh at the absurd nature of this play and movie, it is less amusing when the subject of the poisoning is you — and you don’t even know about it. It sadly comes from a source that we would have considered among the things that are a proper thing for our diet — juice. It turns out that in some cases, there is not just vitamin C in that apple juice — indeed, there can be arsenic in there as well.

The results of the study released Wednesday indicate that 10 percent of juices tested had total arsenic levels greater than the FDA’s standard for drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb), while 25 percent of juices also had lead levels higher than the FDA’s bottled water limit of 5 ppb.

Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of popular brands of grape and apple juice sold in the United States, including Mott’s, Minute Maid and Welch’s. Most of the arsenic detected in Consumer Reports’ tests was a type known as inorganic, which is a human carcinogen.

Growing up in a very health aware household, my mother always insisted that we try to avoid boxed juices because they lacked a lot of the nutritional value. Most Sunday mornings my mother would squeeze oranges into juice for us and then rush us into drinking it as quickly as possible so we would get the most value out of the juice, nutritionally speaking. I feel relieved that I was spared years of possible arsenic drinking as a result.

To me it seems strange that this has been going on for so long and that there have not been any standards for maximum allowable arsenic in juice by the FDA up until this point. I would have thought that the manufacturers would have done their best on their own to ensure that their juices would be as free of arsenic as possible, but I suppose I can be a bit on the naive side when it comes to business. Back to the freshly squeezed goodness of yesteryear — I don’t want to think of drinking a cup of arsenic juice!

6 Comments

    1. I don’t see any evidence that the arsenic is coming from groundwater and only a few brands out of many juices have it, leading me to believe that the juice manufacturers themselves are doing something improperly or not doing something properly. I suppose I should worry about rice arsenic since I’m a rice and beans freak!

      1. The arsenic is coming from pesticide contanminated groundwater, Gordon:

        Why is arsenic being found in fruit juices?

        Organic and inorganic forms of arsenic can be found in soil and ground water, and as a result, small amounts may be found in certain food and beverage products.

        Arsenic-based pesticides were commonly used in United States agricultural production up until 1970, when more effective substances became available. As a result, trace levels of organic and inorganic forms of arsenic can be detected in some agricultural settings, which may lead to small amounts of arsenic in certain foods and beverages.

        http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm271595.htm

          1. Exactly! We’re STUCK! Gah! Luckily, arsenic is sort of organic — like Anthrax — so we can tolerate it a bit — but jinkers! — who wants to swallow poison every day?