Juices Are So Metal: No, Literally, Half of Them Contain Harmful Heavy Metal Levels
Juice cleanses are often touted by New Age-y types as a great way to rid your body of toxins. But an alarming new analysis from Consumer Reports suggests that the opposite may be true: Nearly half of the juice brands they tested contained elevated levels of heavy metals—unwanted additions that could potentially be detrimental to your health or the health of your children.
Consumer Reports focused their testing on four heavy metals known to pose some of the worst health risks, but also known to be common in the food chain: cadmium, lead, mercury, and inorganic arsenic. They then tested 45 popular fruit juices across 24 different brands, specifically looking at apple, blended, grape, and pear juices. In the end, every single one of the products had at least measurable levels of one of these heavy metals, and 21 of the juices (47 percent) had “concerning” levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic, and/or lead. (On the bright side, no juices were flagged for having too much mercury.)
By Consumer Reports’ measures, the worst offenders were seven bottled juices identified as potentially causing harm to children with as little as 4 ounces per day and five juice boxes or pouches that could prove harmful at more than one box or pouch a day. Additionally, nine bottled juices posed health risks to kids at 8 ounces or more per day. And many of these products were flagged as potentially causing harm to adults as well.
Brands included in 4-ounce-per-day group were Trader Joe’s, 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods), R.W. Knudsen Organic, Welch’s, and Great Value (Walmart). Meanwhile, additional brands in the box and pouch group were Minute Maid, Juicy Juice, and Mott’s. Finally, those brands, as well, as CVS’s Gold Emblem and Gerber landed in the 8-ounce-per-day category. You can find the entire list of tested products at CR.org/heavymetals0319.
Possibly the most frustrating part of these findings is that the list of brands is so broad. There’s no one single offender. Part of the issue is that the juice companies themselves aren’t necessarily causing the contamination, and if they work with many different fruit suppliers, tracking a source can be tricky. As a result, instead of calling out these brands, Consumer Reports actually suggests the FDA should step in to help with the issue. “Our tests show that there’s no reason why the FDA should not set aggressive targets for cadmium, inorganic arsenic, and lead, in all fruit juices,” James Dickerson, Ph.D., CR’s chief scientific officer, said in the report. “Clearly, many manufacturers are already there.”
And in the end, it’s not all bad news: Overall, the juices performed significantly better than when a similar report was compiled in 2011. “We are pleased to see lower levels of heavy metals than when we last tested for these elements several years ago,” Dickerson stated. “This suggests that safer juices can be produced, and we encourage the industry to act to further reduce risk because we know it is possible.”