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What Dangers Are Hiding in Your Kid’s Juice Box?

Most concerned parents know they should watch out for sugars in fruit drinks, but now there’s another reason to keep an eagle eye on what our children are drinking.  The California Bay Area’s Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) sampled approximately 400 samples from 146 brands of food and drink products targeted at kids.  The samplings were sent to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency laboratory.

What they found will alarm you, if not make you downright mad.

From the samples, 125 were contaminated with levels of lead exceeding that allowed through California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Prop. 65.  “Safe” levels are deemed to be 0.5 micrograms and below per serving. 

The products tested were both national and store brands, consisting of apple and grape juices, packaged pears and peaches, and fruit cocktail – typical fare easily found in any school lunchbox on any given day.  Unsafe levels were also found in baby food.

Warning letters were filed to the companies marketing to children who were found guilty of making products exceeding the allowed level.  These companies include household names such as Gerber Products, The Coca-Cola Company, Welch’s Foods, and Trader Joe’s to name a few. The letters asked for compliance with Prop. 65 – reduce or remove the lead - or place label warnings on the packaging.

Why this is so disturbing . . . and unforgivable.

You’ve probably heard horror stories of babies getting lead poisoning from old cribs covered with lead-tainted paint and the awful side effects.  Now the same dangers are lurking in our children’s apple juice.  According to toxicologist Dr. Barbara G. Callahan, “Lead exposure among children is a particular concern because their developing bodies absorb lead at a higher rate and because children are particularly sensitive to lead’s toxic effects, including decreased I.Q.”

In addition, the Mayo Clinic states lead exposure can lead to behavioral problems, hearing damage, anemia, and learning disabilities.  To make things even more worrisome, the poisoning is difficult to detect and the symptoms may not appear until there is already a dangerous amount of lead already consumed.

Products to watch out for and products that got the green light.

A pdf list of products tested and the results of the testing can be found here.   If you buy packaged fruit drinks and fruits, chances are you have one or more of these products in your refrigerator or on your kitchen shelf right now.

As alarming as this report may be, there is a solution. Once you realize there is a whole other world that doesn’t include packaged foods, the possibilities for nutritious and completely safe food and drink is pretty much limitless. Parents who give their children fruits and vegetables straight from the garden or from a local market don’t have to worry about a “safe list.”  And freshly squeezed juice is a much healthier and safer alternative to anything you can buy off the shelf.

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