New report finds lead in juice boxes and packaged fruit

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By Melissa Segrest
Green Right Now

Where there’s a kid, there’s probably a juice box.  Ubiquitous as sippy cups – though not always the healthiest thing to hand a child – they are sometimes just what is needed to placate a thirsty kid.

Now comes surprising news from the Environmental Law Foundation, a non-profit environmental group: Its tests in an EPA-approved laboratory have revealed lead levels in dozens of the most popular brands of juice boxes, bottled juice and packaged fruit that exceed California’s laws.

The brands? Beech Nut’s, Earth’s Best Organics, Gerber, Hansen’s, Kroger’s, Minute Maid, Motts, Trader Joe’s, Del Monte and Walgreens were among the companies producing apple or grape juice, packaged pears or peaches and fruit cocktails that were found to have more than .5 micrograms of lead per serving.

Several organic products are on the list of products with trace amounts of lead.

California Law requires a warning on a product’s label informing consumers that a product contains that much lead. The foundation filed “notices of violation” to all of the manufacturers of those juice and fruit products.

The federal Food and Drug Administration’s standard for lead intake for children under 7 is 6 micrograms per day, and 15 micrograms a day for children older than 7.

The FDA is looking at the report and will follow-up as warrented, FDA spokesman Ira Allen said Saturday.

Juices and fruits with no lead are also listed. Among them are Harvest Day, Martinelli, Sunny Select and Tree Top apple juices, and Dole peaches.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, along with other researchers and scientists, say there is no safe level of lead exposure. Children’s growing bodies absorb more lead than adults’, and kids are particularly sensitive to the toxic impact of lead. Lead exposure is also particularly dangerous for pregnant and nursing women.

Lead does not degrade – in the environment or in the body – and exposure can lead to brain and central nervous system damage. Even small amounts have been linked to learning, hearing and behavior problems. Lead is stored in the bones and can be measured in blood.

Lead is frequently found in the environment because of decades of use of lead-based products (gasoline in particular) and pesticides, paint and airborne lead from coal burning. There are multiple ways in which a child can be exposed to or ingest lead.

Because of its presence in the environment, lead can find its way into food products which are regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

The report is particularly troubling, some experts say, because the traceable lead levels in the fruit products are “per serving,” and many kids can go through a number of juice boxes or packaged fruit products a day.

In addition to new concerns about lead content, many prepackaged juice boxes are loaded with sugar and are far less healthy than the real thing – fresh fruit.

Here is the complete list of all products tested. The California Department of Public Health has a list of frequently asked questions about lead exposure and poisoning online, and the Environmental Protection Agency also has information about the dangers of lead.

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