— The host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Oz Show" is standing by his report on arsenic levels in store-bought apple juice, saying the levels found in some brands made them unsafe for consumption. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration refutes the show’s report, calling it "irresponsible," and says drinking all brands of apple juice is safe.
"I'm a father of three children, 11, 7 and 4, and apple juice is a staple in my house," Matt Lauer told Dr. Mehmet Oz on TODAY Thursday morning. "Why should I believe you and not the FDA?
Oz replied that when his investigation found what he thought was unsafe levels of arsenic in apple juice, the FDA refused to talk to him or come on his show.
But, the FDA reviewed Oz's test results and informed the show with a letter dated Sept. 9 that they couldn't be used to determine whether the juice is unsafe since it only measured the total arsenic.
Arsenic is both a naturally occurring and inorganic heavy metal, and some levels of it are found in the air we breathe, water we drink and in the ground. It is known to cause cancer and kidney problems. But while high levels of inorganic arsenic can be fatal, the organic form is essentially harmless, says Stephanie Yao, an FDA spokeswoman.
The "Dr. Oz Show" only tested for the total amount, while the FDA tests for levels of both organic and inorganic, says Yao. The FDA also told TODAY that the agency tested the same apple juice lots as Oz did, and found arsenic levels well within safe limits, almost zero.
"To try and interpret that data to mean that apple juice is unsafe, is misleading. It's irresponsible, and I think they're needlessly scaring parents," FDA scientist Don Zink, Ph.D, told TODAY.
The FDA has established a benchmark of 23 parts per billion (ppb) of inorganic and organic arsenic to determine whether a food or beverage is a public health risk or reaches a “level of concern.” If that level is reached, the FDA re-tests a sample to measure the inorganic arsenic.
“As a doctor and a parent, it’s concerning me to that there could be toxins such as arsenic in juice we are giving to our kids,” said two-time Emmy Award-winning host Dr. Mehmet Oz said on his show. “While we do not know of any cases of poisonings, we do know that arsenic is a substance that shouldn’t be in food and could be associated with various public health problems such as cancer. Our show today demonstrates that there is in fact arsenic in some juice products and advocates that allowable levels should be equal with tap and bottle water standards.”
Oz said his show was about the public’s right to know what is in the juice they give their children. He told Lauer that parents shouldn't be alarmed or throw out their apple juice, but that he wants to open a discussion about arsenic in juice.
The FDA's Yao maintains there is no cause for alarm.
“We have been monitoring levels of arsenic in many foods, including apple juice for several years, and the data we have shows there really is no cause for concern,” she told msnbc.com Wednesday. “There are very low levels in apple juice. All brands are safe to drink and there is no concern about drinking fruit juices, including apple juice.”