Unbeknownst to many trace amounts of lead and other metals are consistently present in the foods that the public eats and drinks on a daily basis. Ingesting any type of metal in measurable amounts can have serious health consequences, but lead can wreak particular havoc on the human body. Over the years food advocacy groups have worked tirelessly to ensure that these toxic substances, even in small amounts, do not wind up in the public’s food supply. Still, despite their astute efforts, some lead and other metals do inadvertently find their way into consumables, this is particularly true for single-serve juice boxes. However, that could very well be about to change. According to Food & Wine, the Food And Drug Administration moved to enact new regulations that would heavily reduce the acceptable levels of lead in food.
The new regulations pertaining to the further reduction of lead in food specifically target lead found in juices. The FDA is pushing for the allowable amount of lead in juice to be reduced from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion for apple juice and to 20 parts per billion for all other types of fruit-based juices. If the FDA gains approval for its new recourse to aid in continuing to reduce the amount of lead found in food it would serve to align with their overarching goals laid out in their Closer to Zero initiative.
The Closer to Zero initiative was put in place specifically to ensure the future health of children in the United States. Completely removing any amount of lead in food, as well as all other poisonous metals helps to ensure that every child in the US has the opportunity to live a full and healthy life unhampered by the consumption of dietary toxins out of their control. The FDA’s efforts are both admirable and necessary. “This action to limit lead in juice represents an important step forward in advancing FDA’s Closer to Zero action plan, which we are confident will have a lasting public health impact on current and future generations, “ stated an FDA spokesperson.
An example of the devastating effects lead in food and water can have on a population can be seen by examining the current conditions in Flint, Michigan. Flint is an impoverished city in the state of Michigan and its people are some of the most underserved in the entire nation. The city has been suffering from a water crisis that dates back to the Clinton administration. The city’s water supply has long been tainted with toxic amounts of lead. As a result, many of the city’s children have incurred lead-related diseases and ailments that will impact them for the rest of their lives.
That being said, while the FDA’s efforts to reduce the amount of lead in food are certainly commendable, not all advocates think that the agency is doing enough. Brian Ronholm, who works as the director of food policy at Consumer Reports, pointed out “These proposed levels seem weak, especially when you consider a significant majority of the industry is already meeting them.” Ronholm went on to detail that while from the outside the FDA’s revised regulations look like forward progress, they are essentially just an acknowledgment of what many manufacturers have already begun implementing. “These action levels seem to give credit for work already done instead of attempting to protect public health,” stated Ronholm.
Tom Neltner, who works as the chemicals policy director at the Environmental Defense Fund, echoed Ronholm’s sentiments. “This is closer to zero, but it is only a baby step closer to protecting babies.” For now, though, the FDA has responded by asserting that removing lead and others metals from food is an ongoing process and that they are fully committed to their Closer to Zero Initiative.