U.S – The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has taken steps to limit lead in juices to further reduce exposure to toxic elements in foods.

The agency recently issued draft action levels for lead in single-strength, ready-to-drink apple juice, and other juices and juice blends.

This action is intended to reduce the potential for negative health effects from dietary exposure to lead, and supports the agency’s Closer to Zero action plan that sets forth the FDA’s science-based approach to reducing exposure to toxic elements in foods.

“Exposure of our most vulnerable populations, especially children, to elevated levels of toxic elements from foods is unacceptable.

“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,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. in an agency release.

The draft guidance outlines recommended limits of lead in juice that can be achieved by industry and progressively lowered as appropriate.

The guidance has set a limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for lead in single-strength apple juice and of 20 ppb for lead in all other single-strength juice types, including juice blends that contain apple juice.

The FDA estimates that establishing a 10 ppb action level could result in as much as a 46% reduction in exposure to lead from apple juice in children.

For all other fruit and vegetable juices, establishment of an action level of 20 ppb is estimated to result in a reduction of 19% in exposure to lead from all other juices in children.

The FDA issued a lower draft action level for apple juice because it is the most commonly consumed juice that young children drink.

Susan Mayne, Ph.D., the Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), revealed that the agency is increasing targeted compliance activities as part of its efforts to monitor levels of these elements in foods through the FDA’s Total Diet Study, Toxic Elements in Food and Foodware program and sampling assignments.

“In addition, our work in this important area of food safety will progress with advancements in science. For example, action levels may be progressively lowered over time, as appropriate, to make continual improvements in reducing the levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury in foods eaten by babies and young children,” she said.

The FDA routinely monitors levels of toxic elements in food and considers on a case-by-case basis whether a food that contains a contaminant is adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and subject to enforcement action.

The presence of lead in the environment as a naturally occurring element and from consumer and industrial products and processes, makes it impossible to remove it entirely from the food supply. Nevertheless, the action levels recommended in the draft guidance document will help limit consumer exposure.

As the agency enters the second year of the Closer to Zero action plan, it is working to identify reference levels for arsenic, cadmium and mercury, and to issue draft guidance to industry on action levels for lead in foods commonly eaten by babies and young children.

“We’re also continuing to work towards issuing final guidance on an action level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice,” informed the food watchdog.

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