Niagara Gazette — In 2008 FDA regulators set a "level of concern" for arsenic at 23 parts per billion in apple juice. The agency has the authority to seize juice that exceeds that level.
But agency officials played down the significance of the older figure this week, calling it a "back of the envelope" calculation that was used to assess one juice shipment detained at the border.
"It was not a full blown, science-based number," said Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods.
The FDA's new number is based on lifetime exposure to arsenic and the potential for long-term cancer risk. Taylor says the number reflects a very cautious approach, since it's unclear how much arsenic exposure can trigger the disease.
"There isn't a known threshold for the carcinogenic effect, so we assume the possibility of effects all the way down to the lowest dose," Taylor said.
The agency will take comments on the draft regulation for 60 days before making it binding.
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, last year called for a limit as low as 3 parts per billion. While the FDA didn't go that far, the group still praised the agency for taking action.
"While we had proposed a lower limit, we think this is a perfectly good first step to bring apple juice in line with the current drinking water limits," said Urvashi Rangan, the group's director for consumer safety.