ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
Here's some news for parents of the sippy-cup crowd. The Food and Drug Administration is proposing a new standard for levels of arsenic in apple juice. Concerns have been raised about the amounts of the toxin that are showing up in juices. So should we be worried about this? We turn to NPR's Allison Aubrey to talk about it more. Hey there, Allison.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.
CORNISH: So what's the story here? What has been the concern?
AUBREY: Well, it's reports from consumer and advocacy groups that really brought this issue to national attention. Back in 2011, Dr. Oz presented results from an investigation on his TV show that found some of the nation's best-known brands of apple juice contained arsenic, and there was a suggestion that this could be harmful. He was criticized for alarming parents.
But independently, Consumer Reports also published a report that found about 10 percent of juice samples they tested had total levels of arsenic that exceeded federal drinking water standards. And I should say here that there's arsenic in drinking water too. It occurs naturally. So the FDA decided to take a good look at the levels in apple juice.
CORNISH: So what did the FDA find?
AUBREY: Well, they looked at some 94 samples of apple juice. And they broke down the test results to distinguish between total arsenic and inorganic arsenic, and that's the carcinogenic form. And what they found is that all of their samples fell below this 10 parts per billion threshold for levels of inorganic arsenic. And so now, this is what they're proposing as the new threshold for apple juice, which is basically the same standard that already exists for arsenic in drinking water.
CORNISH: And I'm feeling a little deja vu here. I mean, haven't there been concerns about arsenic in other foods as well?
AUBREY: Yeah. Well, last year, there was a report from Consumer Reports on levels of arsenic found in rice. And, you know, it's just really sort of the same issue. The amounts are small. But I think people want clarity. They want to know, you know, is there a safe level? They hear the word arsenic and they think, you know, cancerous or toxic. And, you know, so I communicated with an FDA spokesperson today by email, and basically, what I learned is that the FDA is going to follow the same process they took with apple juice to assess arsenic levels in rice.
Once they complete their analysis, they'll begin to determine the next step and perhaps set a similar standard for arsenic in rice. So it's really likely to be an issue that we hear about again. I would say, overall, Audie, for apple juice, I think the message is stand down. I mean, I can tell you as a mom of three children, from teen to toddler, I used to worry about all of these things. But if you look at the science here, if arsenic is limited down to 10 parts per billion, I think that this is something that we can mark off our worry list.
CORNISH: Allison, thanks so much.
AUBREY: All right. Thank you.
CORNISH: That's NPR's food and health correspondent Allison Aubrey.