US Congress representatives Rosa DeLauro and Frank Pallone Jr. have called on the FDA commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, to set maximum allowable levels for dangerous heavy metals, including arsenic, in food and beverages.
DeLauro and Pallone approached the FDA less than a month after a scientific study raised concerns over high levels of inorganic arsenic in organic brown rice syrup (OBRS) – an ingredient commonly used in infant formula.
FoodQualityNews.com reported recently on the FDA’s “expanded” surveillance of inorganic arsenic levels in OBRS after a scientific study reported high levels of the heavy metal in several commercially available food products.
There are currently no European Union (EU) or US regulations in relation to levels of inorganic arsenic in food.
Only China has a set regulatory limit – with the substance allowed in levels up to 150ppb.
Strongly urge limits
In line with the letter to Hamburg, DeLauro and Pallone have introduced a piece of legislation - the Arsenic Prevention and Protection from Lead Exposure in Juice Act of 2012.
The legislation seeks to limit the amount of arsenic that Americans are exposed to in beverages containing fruit juice.
“We write today to strongly urge you to implement enforcement standards for the maximum allowable levels of heavy metals, including arsenic, in foods and beverages regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as soon as possible,” said the letter.
"Currently, the FDA only has a standard for maximum allowable levels of arsenic in bottled water. There are no regulations for this toxin in other food products, including juices or infant formula, though China has a standard for arsenic in food."
The letter added that setting a standard for inorganic arsenic would be "sensible."
“We strongly support the intent of this piece of legislation and hope to work with you to protect the public health from juice beverages that contain unsafe levels of arsenic and lead.”
“Given that bill and the recent research on the threat that arsenic in fruit juices and food products pose, we urge you implement maximum standards for all food products, including juices and infant formula, in a timely manner,” the letter added.
“Seriously considering guidance”
The FDA also recently conducted tests on levels of arsenic in apple juice, after a US-based consumer group voiced its concern.
In November 2011, the FDA announced that it was “seriously considering setting guidance or other level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice and are collecting all relevant information to evaluate and determine an appropriate level.”
In December 2011, the FDA announced that it was still considering setting guidance despite reiterated its confidence in the overall safety of apple juice.