Lead in the Sippy Cup? Environmental Group Finds Lead in Children’s Juices
If you’re a parent, chances are you buy a lot of juice, particularly apple juice. Chances are, you buy familiar brands that often boast a lot of marketing language like “all natural,” “made in the USA” and even “organic.” You probably wouldn’t buy an apple juice that bears the label, “Exceeds the daily safe dose of lead in every serving,” but according to a new research study, that may be exactly what you’re getting.
The Environmental Law Foundation, an Oakland, California-based environmental nonprofit, recently conducted a study in conjunction with an EPA-certified lab, testing about 400 samples of 146 products marketed toward children, including apple and grape juices, fruit baby foods and packaged pears, peaches and fruit cocktail. Now, here’s the scary part: 125 out of 146 products (over 85 percent) tested positive for lead – enough lead in a single serving to exceed limits set by California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (casually known as Prop 65).
Prop 65 includes a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm. Lead (a neurotoxin which can cause both) is near the top of the list. Any consumer product containing more than 0.5 micrograms of lead per serving is considered a “significant risk,” and manufacturers and retailers selling the product must provide “clear and reasonable warning” to consumers.
Which, needless to say, none of the manufacturers of the fruit and juice products found to be in violation have done.
As a result, on June 9, 2010, the Environmental Law Foundation filed Notices of Violation of California Proposition 65 Toxics Right to Know law, including the results of their testing revealing that lead was present to an unacceptable degree in at least some samples of certain brands of juices, baby food and fruit products. The organization also officially notified the CEOs of companies whose juice products exceeded lead limits. (You can find that notification here.)
UMass Amherst toxicologist Barbara G. Callahan called the lead concentrations in the ELF test results “alarming.” There is no “safe” level of exposure to lead. Lead accumulates in the body from multiple sources: food and water, handling items contaminated with lead and even via inhalation, but it’s especially harmful to children. Said Callahan, “Lead exposure among children is a particular concern because their developing bodies absorb lead at a higher rate and because children are particularly sensitive to lead’s toxic effects, including decreased I.Q.”
Apple juices sold in the U.S. are not uncommonly prepared from apple juice concentrate sourced in China, Brazil or other countries. While the source of the contaminated products in the ELF study has not yet been identified, there have been safety fears in the past regarding juice products sourced in countries that may not have rigorous testing processes in place. China produces 65 percent of the world’s apples, and as much as 40 percent of the apple juice sold in the U.S. is made from concentrate produced in China. Only 22 percent of apple juice in the U.S. is from domestic apples. (U.S. apple growers claim it is more profitable to sell apples for produce than juice.)
Popular brands such as Motts, Tree Top, Welch’s and Tropicana all use apple juice concentrate from China, as do many store brands and, surprisingly, companies that market their juices as “organic.” (Tropicana is owned by PepsiCo.; Motts is owned by Cadbury-Schweppes.) To discover the source country of juices, check the bottle (not the label) of many juice products, and you’ll find the country (or countries) of origin stamped via an inkjet process on the plastic itself.
The FAQ section of the Web site of the U.S. Apple Association states that, “Apple juice concentrate has been safely imported into the U.S. from countries including China, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and a number of countries in the European Union for more than 30 years without any reported food safety incident.”
Guess there’s always got to be a first time.
– Tracey Schelmetic
You can find a full list of the “dirty” and “clean” products, including grape juices, baby foods and packaged fruits here.
These are the apple juice products in which one or more samples tested exceeded Prop 65 limits:
Beech Nut 100% Apple Juice
Earth’s Best Organics Apple Juice
First Street 100% Apple Cider from concentrate
First Street Apple Juice from concentrate 100% juice
Full Circle Organic Apple Juice
Gerber 100% Juice Apple Juice
Great Value 100% No Sugar Added Apple Juice
Hansen’s Natural Apple Juice
Kroger 100% Juice Apple Juice
Langers Apple Juice 100% Juice
Minute Maid Juice Apple – 100% Apple Juice
Motts 100% Apple Juice
O Organics Organic Unfiltered Apple Juice Not From Concentrate
Old Orchard 100% Apple Juice
Parade 100% Juice Apple
Raley’s Premium 100% Apple Juice not from Concentrate
Safeway 100% Juice Apple Cider
Safeway 100% Juice Apple Juice
Stater Bros. 100% Juice Apple Juice
Sunny Select 100% Apple Juice
Trader Joe’s Certified Organic Apple Juice, pasteurized
Tree Top 100% Juice Apple Cider
Walgreens Apple Juice from concentrate 100% juice
Walnut Grove Market 100% Apple Juice
The following brands were CLEAN of lead in all samples tested:
Great Value 100% Apple Juice not from concentrate
Harvest Day 100% Apple Juice from Concentrate
Kirkland Fresh Pressed Apple Juice Pasteurized
Martinelli’s Gold Medal Apple Juice 100% pure from US grown fresh apples
R.W. Knudsen Organic Apple Juice unfiltered
Raley’s Everyday 100% Apple Juice
Sunny Select 100% Unfiltered Apple Juice
Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice all natural pasteurized, 100% juice
Tree Top 100% Apple Juice
Tree Top Three Apple Blend 100% Fresh Pressed Juice