Study: Heavy metals like arsenic, lead found in 45 packaged fruit juices


(CBS News) — Some popular fruit juices may contain heavy metals, according to a new report out Wednesday morning. Consumer Reports tested 45 packaged fruit juices for heavy metals, like lead, arsenic, and cadmium and found measurable levels in every product. Long-term exposure to these metals could cause some serious health risks, like kidney disease and certain types of cancer.

Heavy metals are substances that make their way into food because they occur naturally in the air, water and soil. They can also wind up in food during the manufacturing and packaging processes, reports CBS News’ Anna Werner. 

While improvements have been made since Consumer Reports last tested juice products eight years ago, they now recommend parents give their children less juice.

Consumer Reports’ chief scientific officer James Dickerson and his team tested 45 different juices for four heavy metal substances: inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. They found that every single product contained a measurable amount of at least one heavy metal, except for mercury.

Twenty-one of the samples contained one or a combination of heavy metals that reached a level Consumer Reports researchers deemed concerning for daily consumption. They said the metals found in seven of the 21 samples had the potential to harm children who drink only a half cup per day.

According to the CDC, long-term exposure to heavy metals may put people at risk for kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, damaged ability to learn and certain types of cancer. 

Consumer Reports is recommending parents lower the amount of juice they give their kids.

“So they should be concerned but don’t panic … frequent exposure to these heavy metals through the juice is the concern,” James Dickerson said.

The Juice Products Association, whose board of directors includes executives from PepsiCo, Welch’s and other juice brands whose products were tested, said they haven’t seen the full study but called the results “unfounded” and told CBS News they are committed to providing “safe” and “nutritious” products that meet FDA standards.

They also said that there is “no scientific evidence” indicating that trace levels of heavy metals have caused any negative health outcomes.

But Dr. Leo Trasande, director of environmental pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine, said, “The science is telling us increasingly that there are particular time points in life when even a small amount of exposure, for example, can disrupt hormones and thereby contribute to disease.”

He recommends parents swap the juices for something else.

“My suggestion is they simply eat an apple, preferably organic, and drink water as a substitute for these juices,” Trasande said. 

In 2013, the FDA proposed limiting inorganic arsenic in apple juice but no change was ever made. The FDA had no comment.

Consumer Reports said their findings are a “spot check” and “should not be used to draw definitive conclusions about specific brands.”

CBS News reached out to all of the juice companies. Ten responded saying their products are safe and follow all food safety guidelines.

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