apple juice?Juice is never necessary is a child’s diet. Unpopular as this is to say, juice is always an extra, add-on, treat-type part of what children should eat. High in sugar and low in nutrition, excess juice in a child’s diet is linked to poor nutrition, obesity, and dental cavities.  Although 100% juice comes from fruit, after it’s smooshed and pushed through machines to produce clear juice it’s separated from much of the health benefits (fiber) from whole fruit.

Late last week the FDA provided an updated “action plan” and recommendation for monitoring inorganic arsenic levels in apple juice. Back in 2011, the controversy about arsenic in apple juice began when Dr Oz presented data on his afternoon television show that was quickly rebutted by Dr Richard Besser on Good Morning America. Dr Oz reported high levels of total arsenic (organic and inorganic) in apple juice but there were concerns of unnecessary scares. Up until this point, the FDA wasn’t mandating arsenic levels in apple juice. After a cascading series of events (much criticism and then more reports and analytics) it is now more widely accepted that up to 10% of apple juice may have higher levels of inorganic arsenic than we tolerate in drinking water. Inorganic arsenic consumption can damage organs in our body and in high quantities it’s linked to an elevated cancer risk. Organic arsenic isn’t harmful to our body (it passes right through) and is found naturally in many foods we eat like shellfish or seafood.

Consequently, the FDA has decided to decrease the level of inorganic arsenic they tolerate in commercial apple juice to that of levels acceptable in drinking water (10 parts per billion). Inorganic arsenic in our diet typically comes from food contaminated with and/or grown in soil with high levels of inorganic arsenic (animals fed food with arsenic or food grown in contaminated fields with heavy industrial products). In the past couple of years arsenic has enjoyed quite a bit of media spotlight, especially in light of evolving 2012 information about elevated arsenic levels in rice (cereal, noodles, white or brown organically grown or not). Because of this, most pediatricians now recommend offering infants rice cereal only once weekly. As with all concerns about the food we eat, moderation is key…5 tips:

5 Thoughts on Juice:

  1. Moderate juice intake. Juice isn’t evil and when integrated into a healthy diet sensibly, small amounts of juice won’t likely cause health problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it simply, “If parents want to include juice in their children’s diet, juice should be limited to 4 to 6 ounces a day for children ages 1 to 6 years, and 8 to 12 ounces a day for children age 7 and older.” If the information on arsenic is startling, get rid of apple juice altogether in your child’s diet!
  2. Juice at meals only. For those in the sippy-cup generation, avoid offering juice in a sippy cup outside of meals. Sucking on sugary drinks all afternoon or for hours in the car will increase likelihood of dental caries.
  3. Watery-juice isn’t that much better. Even if you water down the juice to cut the sugar content, you’re still training your child to crave something sweet if you offer water/juice every day. As best you can, offer your child tap water between meals. At most meals offer water or low-fat milk.
  4. Whole fruit is a good thing. Fresh fruit has great health benefits so children should be offered whole fruits to meet their recommended daily fruit intake. Here’s a My Plate chart that outlines daily fruit intake recommendations based on age and gender. Of note, 100% fruit juice does count as a serving of fruit.
  5. Getting rid of inorganic arsenic. Clearing your family’s diet entirely of inorganic arsenic may be very difficult. The FDA’s new action level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice will help if implemented. The FDA hasn’t completed their full investigation on arsenic in rice but here’s more info on arsenic in rice if you want to understand limiting intake there, too. More info on arsenic in food from Healthy Children and Consumer Reports.