Things are looking grim for this longtime lunchbox staple. According to new testing from Consumer Reports, measurable levels of various heavy metals—arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury—may lurking in your children's favorite juice box.
Out of the study's 45 fruit juices across 24 kid-marketed brands—from Welch's and Juicy Juice to Honest Kids, among other popular names—nearly half tested positive for concerning levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead. (Mercury was detected in some of the samples, but not to a concerning level.) Grape juice and "juice blends" proved to be the worst culprits, containing some of the highest average metal levels, compared to apple and pear juices; meanwhile, organic juice varieties didn't perform any better than their conventional counterparts.
While previous studies have found these heavy metals to already be hiding in many common foods, from fish and rice products and even our drinking water, the study notes that children face a greater chance of suffering the consequences of overexposure including a lowered IQ, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. "Exposure to these metals early on can affect their whole life trajectory," Jennifer Lowry, M.D., chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health told Consumer Reports. "There is so much development happening in their first years of life."
Experts also explain that while isolated servings may not contain harmful levels of these metals, it's the accumulation over time that raising serious health concerns. "In the course of a lifetime, the average person will come into contact with these metals many times, from many sources," says Tunde Akinleye, a chemist in Consumer Reports' Food Safety division who led the testing. "We're exposed to these metals so frequently during our lives that it's vital to limit exposures early on."
In other words, there's no need to impose a juice-ban in your household just yet; instead, try and control how much juice your child consumes regularly. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of one should avoid fruit juice completely while children one to three years old should have no more than four ounces; four to six-year-olds, six ounces, and seven years and up, eight ounces. Better yet, consider swapping in fruit-flavored water or fresh smoothies when your little one—or you!—get a sugary craving.