Lead levels in canned fruits and juices pose no health risk - FDA

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Lead levels in canned fruits and juices pose no health risk - FDA

Related tags Immune system

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed it has detected lead in a range of canned fruit and juice products – but said the levels were too low to pose a health hazard.

The body said it regularly tests products for lead as part of its ongoing surveillance programme to monitor food supply safety

But the federal regulator acknowledged it had conducted the analysis on samples of apple juice, grape juice, peach slices, pears, mixed fruit and fruit cocktail in July 2010 after the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) accused a host of leading food companies that their juice and packaged fruit products were in violation of the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 - also known as California Proposition 65.

The California-based private advocacy group served notices on dozens of companies including Del Monte Foods, Hansen Beverage Co, Motts, J M Smucker, Safeway and Dole Packaged Frozen Foods Inc alleging they had failed to disclose the products contained lead.

The FDA said the ELF-prompted tests had revealed levels of lead in foods but that these were not a cause for alarm.

“Almost all the products FDA tested contained a small amount of lead, but in each case the level found would not pose an unacceptable risk to health​”, said an agency statement.

Regulations and guidance on lead

The FDA has set regulatory limits for lead in foods such as bottled water and some ingredients, such as sugar. It has also established guidance levels on a range of foodstuffs such as candy and juices. The body said in its Guidance for Industry: Juice HACCP Hazards and Controls​ that lead levels in juice above 50 ppb may constitute a health hazard. Where no regulations exist, the FDA said it takes a case-by-case approach to the significance of lead found in foods.

Exposure to high levels of lead in foods can damage the central nervous system, the kidneys and the immune system. Low level exposure in children can affect cognitive function and cause behavioural problems.

Lead is present in small amounts throughout the environment due to its natural occurrence and its release into the environment by human activities, said the FDA. It added that lead cannot be removed by washing or other steps taken by food processors.

Following the action taken by ELF in June citing lead in some 125 products, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) said lead occurs naturally in the environment which means finding trace levels of the substance in plant-based foods is unavoidable.

The industry group issued a statement saying: “Many minerals, including lead, exist naturally in soil and water. As a result, there are trace levels of naturally occurring lead in plant-based foods. Food and beverage companies all adhere to strict manufacturing practices to assure that there is no lead added in the cultivation and processing of foods and to keep the presence of even naturally occurring lead in any product to an absolute minimum.”

Related topics Regulation & safety Juice drinks

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