Reporting Joe Shortsleeve
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BOSTON (CBS) – We all know arsenic is a dangerous poison, and that’s why it is so troubling that it is finding its way into popular foods. One recent study even found it in baby formula.
There are calls for the federal government to do more to protect consumers.
Inorganic arsenic, which is man-made, has recently been detected in small amounts in chicken, apple juice and granola bars.
Cindy Luppi, an environmentalist with Clean Water Action, explained, “Arsenic is a toxic chemical. It is linked very definitively to cancer and cardiac impacts.
The most recent study out of Dartmouth College looked at organic products made with brown rice syrup, a natural sweetener. It is often found in granola bars, cereal, and other baked products.
Rice naturally pulls more arsenic out of the soil and researchers found the syrup caused some products to have higher concentrations.
In response to the findings, the Food and Drug Administration said they’ve been, “Monitoring arsenic content for more than 20 years.” They also said because it is “Naturally occurring in soil and was used for many years in pesticides, we know there are trace amounts in many foods.”
The FDA says these products are safe, but a broad study is due this spring.
Shoppers who spend more on organic food were surprised by the Dartmouth findings.
“When you think about something that is healthy for you, and then you find that it has levels of things in it that are going to be bad for your health, that’s definitely not a good thing,” said one woman.
Another added, “We are always under the impression that organic is better for you.”
Luppi is concerned about how the federal government assesses the risks of arsenic exposure in food. “One isolated issue may not trigger a huge government action, but it is not taking into account your full day’s exposure.”
For example, one study detected trace amounts of arsenic in chicken last summer. Consumer Reports found the arsenic in 10% of juice samples exceeded what would be allowed in drinking water. Individually, the FDA said both remain safe.
“We need real world regulation of these chemicals because no one is exposed to one chemical in one food group at a time,” said Luppi.
The best defense against ingesting too much arsenic is variety in your diet, according to nutritionist Joan Salge Blake of Boston University. “We are always advocating a well-rounded, varied diet, because then we know that you get all well rounded good nutrients and not too much of one type which is a good thing.”
A federal bill was filed last month which would require the FDA to set safety standards for arsenic and lead in juices. 70% of our apple juice now comes from China.