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Toddler drinking juice

FDA proposes lower lead levels for juice

April 27, 2022

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed that manufacturers lower the amount of lead in juice, which can be harmful to children.

Draft guidance released Wednesday calls for action levels of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for lead in apple juice and 20 ppb for lead in all other juices. The current levels are 50 ppb.

“Exposure of our most vulnerable populations, especially children, to elevated levels of toxic elements from foods is unacceptable,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D., said in a news release. “This action to limit lead in juice represents an important step forward in advancing FDA’s Closer to Zero action plan, which we are confident will have a lasting public health impact on current and future generations.”

Lead exposure has been associated with health, learning and behavior problems, and no amount is considered safe. However, it can’t be entirely removed from the food supply, according to the FDA.

The FDA estimates its lower recommended action levels could result in as much as a 46% reduction in children’s lead exposure from apple juice and 19% reduction in exposure from other juices. However, even if finalized, its action levels are not binding for manufacturers.

Due to the high sugar content in fruit juice, the AAP recommends children under 1 year of age do not drink it.  It also calls for limiting daily 100% fruit juice consumption to 4 ounces for toddlers ages 1-3 years, 4-6 ounces for children ages 4-6 years and 8 ounces for children ages 7-18 years.

Leaders of the AAP Council on Environmental Health and Climate Change (COEHCC) and AAP Committee on Nutrition (CON) expressed support for the FDA’s efforts to limit lead in juice.

“While in most places, housing related hazards are most likely to be the source of lead exposure in children, and juice intake should be limited in any case, it is important to minimize or eliminate all sources of lead exposure (as well as other toxic heavy metals), as there are no known safe levels of exposure,” COEHCC Executive Committee Chair Aparna Bole, M.D., FAAP, said via email.

The lower lead levels support the FDA’s Closer to Zero action plan aiming to reduce children’s exposure to arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury from foods. CON Chair Mark R. Corkins, M.D., C.N.S.C., FASPEN, AGAF, FAAP, applauded this goal but also said there should be efforts to prevent unintended consequences like increased prices on crucial food products.

“The process should be done in a reasonable progressive fashion that improves the safety without burdening the families by seeking a quick fix,” he said via email.

The FDA is accepting comments on the proposed lead recommendations through June 28.

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