The FDA Wants Your Opinion On The Acceptable Amount Of Lead In Juice

The effects of lead poisoning, particularly in children, are well-documented. The Mayo Clinic reports children six years of age or younger are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning, which can lead to both mental and physical developmental problems. And while the presence of lead in items from toys to cribs has been addressed, per News Medical, what has not been properly addressed is the lead content in fruit juice. 

In 2017, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) looked at 11 years' worth of data from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and found not only detectable traces of lead in both baby food and fruit juice, but that the levels of lead found in infant formulations of both grape and apple juice were higher than in regular versions of the same flavors. Now the FDA is looking to lower the currently acceptable level of lead in fruit juice from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion for apple juice, and 20 parts per billion for other types of juice.

As part of this process, the government agency has opened the draft of the new guidance for comments. If you'd like to submit your feedback, you will need to do so by June 28 of this year.

Some feel this is still not enough

The FDA's attempt to slash levels of lead in fruit juice is part of its Closer to Zero plan, which the agency calls a "science-based, iterative approach to decreasing toxic elements (such as lead) in foods over time, including by setting action levels." According to the agency, sources of lead in juice include exposure to machines with lead-soldered equipment. The FDA is hoping juice manufacturers implement the guidelines voluntarily before the guidance is finalized, per Food Safety News

But Consumer Reports says some critics aren't satisfied, writing the limits as proposed by the FDA aren't enough. Consumer Report's director of food policy, Brian Ronholm argues: "These proposed levels seem weak, especially when you consider a significant majority of the industry is already meeting them. These action levels seem to give credit for work already done instead of attempting to protect public health."

Lead is not the only problematic substance found in children's juices. Once that's been addressed, Food Safety News reports the FDA will be looking to tackle arsenic levels, too.