Juice: What You Need to Know

There’s been a lot of news about juice – and what’s in it – lately. We’ve been at the forefront of these investigations and plenty has been brought to light: the presence of arsenic in apple juice and, most recently, FDA reports on the discovery of a banned fungicide in orange juice imports.

How did this happen? The juices in question are made with fruit that is grown in other countries. These countries do not have the same regulations as we do in the United States and often allow substances in the processing of the juice that US government agencies have banned. For example, arsenic has been banned in pesticides in the US for decades, but it is not always regulated in other countries. American apple juice is made from apple concentrate, 60% of which is imported from China, where arsenic is still used in pesticides.

Our findings on arsenic in apple juice mirror what Consumer Reports found in its investigation and are similar to what the FDA found in its own studies. A month after our original report in September, the FDA told us that it was reevaluating what it considers an acceptable level of arsenic in apple juice. For test results, FDA and juice company statements, and other important information, click here.

With orange juice, again the issue is with imported juices, in this case, from Brazil. Carbendazim is a fungicide banned in the United States in 2008. Carbendazim was recently detected and reported by Coca-Cola, the maker of Minute Maid orange juice, and Pepsi, the maker of Tropicana. These findings were reported to the FDA, which is now testing juice imports. FDA tests, so far, have not found the fungicide at levels that warrant a recall of product on shelves or for the import to be turned back at the border. To read a statement from the FDA, click here.

The Dr. Oz Show also revealed new information from orange juice researcher Alissa Hamilton about how orange juice is processed, including the use of flavor packs that give each brand its own distinct and consistent aroma and flavor. Those flavor packs are derived from essence and oils from the orange peel, where the fungicide used on oranges grown in Brazil can accumulate. To read a statement from the Juice Products Association, click here.

The FDA prevented more than 9000 unsafe products from entering the country between 2006 and 2010, but with a less than 2% inspection rate on imported food, contaminants like these have entered the US food system, almost inevitably, considering the incredible volume of food imports that arrive on our shores daily. (If the idea of eating locally and organically has yet to appeal to you, it may be worth looking into.)

We realize that these reports have raised questions about juice, and as consumers, you have the right to know what’s in your food and make the right decisions. We also realize that, realistically, juice isn’t going to lose its spot in your refrigerator.

There are steps you can take to ensure that the juice you and your family drink is not tainted by contaminants. 

Here’s what you need to know before your next trip to the supermarket:

Pay close attention to the juice packaging – this is where you’ll find information on the juice’s country of origin.Look for apple juice made with apples from the US only. You may also want to start choosing organic apple juice to ensure you get the purest product.Look for orange juice made only with oranges grown in the US.Look for 100% USDA certified organic orange juice on the label. If it says 100% certified organic, it’s not allowed to have any non-organic ingredients (it must be 100%, the label “organic” alone does not ensure this).Eat whole fruit – it’s healthier than drinking juice as it has more fiber and no additives. Better yet, choose organic whole fruit. Always wash fruit before eating it.Juice your own. Whether you use an electric juicer or a hand-press juicer, making your own juice allows you the savor the true flavors of fresh juice and enjoy the nutritional benefits that can get lost in the processing and shipping of commercially produced juice.