Dr. Oz has gotten himself into some hot water with the Food and Drug Administration when he claimed that he had found arsenic in apple juice and asserting that the food was not safe to drink.

Dr. Oz has gotten himself into some hot water with the Food and Drug Administration when he claimed that he had found arsenic in apple juice and asserting that the food was not safe to drink.

Not so fast, Dr. Oz, claimed the FDA and juice producers. What was Dr. Oz thinking?

Arsenic and food: What do you know? T or F?
1. Organic arsenic is considered to be safe.
2. Inorganic arsenic is considered to be safe.
3. It is used primarily in pesticides.

Arsenic, a naturally occurring heavy metal, is toxic in high amounts ingested over a long period of time. It is known to cause cancer and neurologic disorders.

There is organic and inorganic arsenic. Inorganic arsenic is the most toxic, but there have been recent questions about the safety of the organic type.

Arsenic can find its way into food, usually when it is used in pesticides or is in contaminated water. It is also added to chicken feed to increase muscle mass and make the meat pinker and more enticing to shoppers.

More than 60 percent of apple juice sold in the U.S. is from concentrate processed and shipped from China, where arsenic is commonly added to pesticides. The use of arsenic in pesticides is outlawed in the U.S. However, there is arsenic in drinking water and the EPA sets standards for safe levels.

Dr. Oz tested several brands of apple juice and reported his findings on his television show and website (www.doctoroz.com). The FDA is critical of Dr. Oz because they assert that he listed only total arsenic levels, not separate organic (safe) and inorganic (toxic) levels, which may mislead consumers and cause unnecessary public anxiety.

Dr. Oz counters that he did test for inorganic arsenic, and that the organic type may not be as safe as we think. All of this back and forth bickering can be very confusing. Organic. Inorganic. Blah. Blah. Blah. What can we do as consumers?

Checking labels to determine where food has been made and processed is an important safety step. China has a terrible track record when it comes to food safety. Only about 2 percent of food entering the U.S. from abroad is tested, and unsafe food can slip through to market. Food made in the U.S. is under much greater scrutiny.

For his part, Dr. Oz is sticking to his guns and defending his research. He cites similar research findings by the University of Arizona in 2009.

The FDA is underfunded and now on the defensive. But with all of the hullabaloo about apple juice, something tells me that this is the tip of the iceberg, and other foods (likely from China) will be implicated in future research. This may be a boon to U.S.-based companies and to organic farmers, whose food is generally grown without pesticides.

Given the high U.S. unemployment rate, the concern about arsenic and my desire to give my apple juice-drinking daughter a safe product, I will be looking very closely at labels. “Made in America” sounds pretty good to me. An apple a day – from China – just might not keep the doctor away.

Answers: 1. T 2. F  3. T