Sen. Markey Urges FDA To Set Limits on Toxic Metals in Children’s Juices

The following is a media release from Sen Ed. Markey’s office. He is one of two senators elected to represent Massachusetts in Washington DC.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) yesterday, Feb. 8, wrote the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the agency to promptly establish mandatory standards to strictly limit heavy metals in children’s food, including fruit juices.

 A recent study conducted by Consumer Reports shows that forty-five popular fruit juices—across twenty-four national, store, and private-label brands—had detectable levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic or lead. Twenty-one of the products had concerning levels of at least one heavy metal.

“We write to you with serious concerns regarding recent findings of heavy metals at potentially harmful levels in fruit juices, including brands marketed for children. Children deserve nothing short of the highest standard of safety,” the senators wrote. “It is unconscionable that the FDA has still not taken effective action to protect children from being exposed to dangerous levels of heavy metals.”

Children eat and drink more per pound of body weight than adults and are more likely to be harmfully exposed to heavy metals.

In addition, children are particularly vulnerable to heavy metals because their bodies and brains are still developing.

These toxic elements have been linked to carcinogenic, cognitive, and reproductive harms, as well as behavioral problems and lower IQ.

In the letter, the Blumenthal, Markey, and Booker press the FDA to take steps to strictly limit any heavy metals in children’s food do not meet determined safety levels. The Senators also call for the FDA to set interim goals and recall limits for heavy metals in all juice products and food types children commonly eat or drink.

Blumenthal has been a steadfast advocate for reducing and preventing foodborne exposure to toxic elements by vulnerable populations. Last year, Blumenthal sent a similar letter raising concerns about heavy metals in baby food.

The letter is below

Dear Commissioner Gottlieb:

We write to you with serious concerns regarding recent findings of heavy metals at potentially harmful levels in fruit juices, including brands marketed for children. Children deserve nothing short of the highest standard of safety. As such, we write to strongly urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to promptly establish mandatory standards to strictly limit heavy metals in children’s food, including fruit juices, in order to protect public health.

A recent study[1] by Consumer Reports tested 45 popular fruit juices—across 24 national, store, and private-label brands—and found that every single product had detectable levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic or lead. Twenty-one of the products had concerning levels of at least one heavy metal. Some of the products even registered high enough concentrations to pose a risk to adults.

Children eat and drink more per pound of body weight than adults do, so they are more likely to be harmfully exposed to heavy metals. In addition, they are also particularly vulnerable to heavy metals because their bodies and brains are still developing. These toxic elements have been linked to carcinogenic, cognitive, and reproductive harms, as well as behavioral problems and lower IQ.

It is unconscionable that the FDA has still not taken effective action to protect children from being exposed to dangerous levels of heavy metals. Specifically, it is past time for the agency to finalize 2013 draft guidance for industry on arsenic in apple juice limiting inorganic arsenic to 10ppb— the same as the federal arsenic drinking water standard.[2] However, this proposed action level only covers apple juice, which we now know is not the only kind of juice with concerning levels heavy metals. Accordingly, we strongly urge the FDA to use its explicit authority under 21 U.S.C. § 2201 to prioritize the health of our children and take the following additional important actions:

  • Initiate rulemaking to strictly limit in children’s food any heavy metals—including lead, inorganic arsenic, and cadmium—that do not have any safe levels.
  • Strongly consider Consumer Reports’ recommendations that lead and cadmium in fruit juice be limited to 1ppb, and that inorganic arsenic be limited to 3ppb. Currently, guidance to manufactures merely suggests lead levels in juice remain below 50ppb. This is unacceptable, considering FDA requirements for lead in bottled water allow is no greater than 5ppb. Cadmium poses similar risks as lead and should be similarly limited in food products. 
  • Set interim goals and recall limits for heavy metals in all juice products and food types children commonly eat or drink.

In your response to a letter we wrote to you last year regarding heavy metals in baby food,[3] you also promised to continue to update our offices on the FDA’s actions and activities related to reducing and preventing foodborne exposure to toxic elements by vulnerable populations. We urge you to keep this commitment.[4]

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We respectfully request a response by February 22, 2019 detailing the steps the FDA will take to protect our children from unnecessary exposure to heavy metals that continue to persist in food products.

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Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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