Dr. Oz blows the whistle on the dangerously high arsenic content in apple juice last September and was called a fear monger and a ratings grabber by the FDA. Today he his good name has been restored. The Consumer Union Report of their own extensive testing vindicates the good doctor and he is called a hero of a consumer watchdog group.
The daytime TV star Dr. Mehmet Oz was accused of fear mongering back in September of this year when he warned his viewers that many of America’s best-known brands of apple juice were laced with arsenic. Many people, including some people at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called Dr. Oz’s claim irresponsible. They claimed Dr. Oz was using fear to influence the opinions and actions of his viewers towards a specific end, to become fervent watchers of his program, which would raise his daytime ratings and ensure his continuing success as a daytime TV icon.
The FDA refutes Dr. Oz’s claim
The FDA claimed that the Dr. Oz Show's testing methods did not differentiate between organic arsenic and inorganic arsenic, but simply measured the total amount of the arsenic present in the apple juice. Organic arsenic, the kind found in nature, is not assimilated by the body and therefore, harmless. The inorganic arsenic, the kind found in pesticides, is the dangerous, cancer-causing kind. The letter that the FDA sent The Dr. Oz Show a letter stating, “We have advised you that the test for total arsenic DOES NOT distinguish inorganic arsenic from organic arsenic.” Sounds good, right?
Consumer Reports (CR) enters the fray.
The Consumer Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports is a respected independent testing laboratory that has been testing products since 1933. They have become a trusted authority right up there with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) where product safety is concerned. The CR entered the fray by testing juices from three states-New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The CR labs tested 88 samples. In 10 percent of the samples tested, they found that the total arsenic content was higher than the 10 parts per billion (ppb) that the EPA allowed in drinking water. In 25 percent of the samples, the lead content exceeded the five ppb the FDA allowed in bottled water. As a result of those findings, the Consumer Union called the FDA with this message, "Consumers Union is urging the FDA to set a more protective standard of three ppb for total arsenic and five ppb for lead in juice."
Could it be that the manufacturers have the FDA in their pockets?
Could Political Action Groups (PACs) be influencing the FDA’s stance? It would appear so. Stephanie Yao, the FDA spokeswoman released the following statement to the press after the Consumer Union entered the fray, “We continue to find the vast majority of apple juice tested to contain low levels of arsenic.” At the same time, she played it safe by adding, “By the same token; a same token, a small percentage of samples contained elevated levels of arsenic. In response, FDA has expanded our surveillance activities.”
Four month later
This month the FDA released this information to the press regarding a letter that they sent to the consumer advocacy group, Food and Water Watch and Empire State Consumer Project, stating that the FDA is considering “setting guidance for the levels of inorganic arsenic in apple juice.” The operative words here, my friends, are “Considering setting.” The FDA is considering doing it; they have not said that they were going to do it. What is there to consider? Inorganic arsenic is a deadly poison, which, in even very small amounts can cause cancer in people of all ages and cause brain damage in unborn children.
Is Dr. Oz vindicated? Does he get any credit for blowing the whistle on this health danger?
“Absolutely,” said Patty Lovena, assistant director of Food and Water Watch in a conversation with a reporter from the Atlantic Wire. “It shows the power of television to get the story out there.” Patty went on to say that if the FDA goes through with the increased monitoring of inorganic arsenic levels in apple juice, the consumer watchdog group would consider it a major victory for the consumer.
Anna Ghost, a spokeswoman for the watchdog group said, “It’s much more than was being done before the Dr. Oz program aired in September giving the issue a huge amount of media exposure.”
The program series
You can click here to watch the five part series for yourself.
2011 Consumer Reports, Results of our apple juice and grape juice tests, Retrieved December 3, 2011, http://www.consumerreports.org/content/dam/cro/magazine-articles/January%202012/Consumer%20Reports%20Arsenic%20Test%20Results%20January%202012.pdf