Former Acting Head Of The CDC Calls It 'Fear-Mongering'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Food and Drug Administration and a leading doctor are refuting claims by television show host Dr. Mehmet Oz that trace amounts of arsenic in many apple juice products pose a health risk.

Oz said on his show on Wednesday that testing by a New Jersey lab has found what he claims are concerning levels of arsenic in many juices.

“After testing dozens of samples from three different cities in America, Dr. Oz discovered that some of the nation’s best known brands of apple juice contain arsenic,”  the Dr. Oz Show says on its website.

To see Dr. Oz’s full report on arsenic in apple juice, click here.

However, the FDA says the lab methods were not appropriate and that its own tests show much lower arsenic levels.

“Arsenic is present in the environment as a naturally occurring substance or as a result of contamination from human activity,” the FDA says on its website. “It is found in water, air, food, and soil in organic and inorganic forms.”

The agency warned the show’s producers in advance that their testing was misleading.

“The Food and Drug Administration has every confidence in the safety of apple juice,” the FDA says, adding “…there is no evidence of any public health risk from drinking these juices.”

Dr. Richard Besser, former acting head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also scolded Oz Thursday on ABC’s Good Morning America show for scaring consumers with what Besser called an “extremely irresponsible” report.

“I’m very upset about this,” Besser said on the show. “Putting out this kind of a health warning, manufacturing a health crisis based on faulty, incomplete data. This fear-mongering reminds me of yelling fire in a movie theater.”

But Oz defended his position.

“We looked at the total arsenic levels because that’s what the FDA looks at, that’s what the EPA evaluates initially and in addition, your assumption that organic arsenic is safe is not true,” Oz said. “There is a lot of debate over the safety of organic arsenic and the body converts inorganic arsenic into some types of organic arsenic that are very toxic so it is misleading to claim that all the organic arsenic is safe.”

To see the lab results from the Dr. Oz Show, click here.

Prior to the show’s airing, the FDA sent the Dr. Oz Show two letters.

The first letter, sent on Sept. 9, reads in part:

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aware that EMSL Analytical, Inc. has obtained and tested 50 samples of retail apple juice for total arsenic content on behalf of Zoco Productions. It is our understanding that, based on these test results, you will assert during an upcoming episode of The Dr. Oz Show that apple juice is unsafe because of the amounts of total arsenic found in the samples.

We appreciate that you have made the results of these tests available to us. As we have previously advised you, the results from total arsenic tests CANNOT be used to determine whether a food is unsafe because of its arsenic content. We have explained to you that arsenic occurs naturally in many foods in both inorganic and organic forms and that only the inorganic forms of arsenic are toxic, depending on the amount. We have advised you that the test for total arsenic DOES NOT distinguish inorganic arsenic from organic arsenic.”

To read the full letter from Sept. 9, click here.

In a second letter sent to the show on Sept. 13, the FDA says they did their own testing on apple juice samples from Nestle/Gerber.

The letter states it found that “…the results of the tests cited above do not indicate that apple juice contains unsafe amounts of arsenic. The FDA reaffirms its belief, as stated in our September 9, 2011 letter, that it would be irresponsible and misleading for the Dr. Oz Show to suggest that apple juice is unsafe based on tests for total arsenic.”

To read the full letter from Sept. 13, click here.

A number of juice companies as well as the Juice Products Association have also responded to the arsenic in apple juice claim.

“The results of tests for arsenic in apple juice that were shared by the Dr. Oz Show with the Juice Products Association should not be interpreted as fact,” the JPA says on its website. “Test results reported by the Dr. Oz Show were based upon a method intended for testing water.   The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a specific method for testing fruit juice because juice contains many more naturally occurring compounds than water.”

To read the full response from the Juice Productions Association, click here.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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