How This Popular Children's Drink Could Be Harming Their Health (and What You Can Do About It)


The choice to avoid one very common kids’ food can potentially save your child’s health. No, it’s not Gummy Worms (not that you shouldn’t keep them away from those, too). It’s apple juice. Some kids drink more juice than water, which is an issue for more reasons that one. Kids can drink water like adults do, and it would serve them better. But more on that below…First off, the levels of arsenic in apple juice are (shockingly) higher than what the FDA allows in drinking water (10 parts per billion).

Read on.

How Does Arsenic Make it into Apple Juice?

pesticide in apple juiceArsenic in apple juice sounds far-fetched, right? It is, after all, a beverage that is incredibly common for children to consume. But the reason for the presence of arsenic is apparently because of industrialized pesticide, preservative, and poultry feed (really???) residue that’s still hanging around in the environment long after it was banned. It’s also worth noting that apple juice concentrate is sometimes purchased from other countries, like China (where we get 60% of our apple juice concentrate), and then used to make juice. Even though they have been banned in the United States, the arsenic-laced pesticides may still be used in these other countries. There’s one more reason to buy organic, locally grown apples.

You may have heard of the arsenic issue before but dismissed it as many did before because it was considered the “safe” kind. Using “safe” and “arsenic” together sounds like an ozymoron. But “Safe” or organic arsenic occurs naturally in the environment (yes, even in some foods) and is generally considered harmless in trace amounts. Inorganic arsenic is toxic and can lead to cancer, heart disease, skin issues, and developmental delays in children. Previous reports said apple juice contained the safer of the two types of arsenic and that there was nothing to be worried about, but recent findings say otherwise—inorganic arsenic is contaminating our apple juice.

shutterstock_134575097Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of apple and grape juice (which is often mostly apple juice) from 28 brands for arsenic. Ten percent of the samples contained more than the 10 ppb the FDA has deemed safe in bottled water. In addition to the arsenic, testing revealed lead in the juice. In 25% of the samples, lead was present in higher levels than the allowable 5 parts per billion. While there have been regulations put into place by the FDA for levels of arsenic and lead in drinking water, none currently exist for juice (though that should be changing soon, now that the results of this study have been reported).

Pesticides Strike Again: Avoid the Dirty Dozen

I know it’s not reasonable for most families to switch to purchasing only organic produce because it can get expensive with so many mouths to feed, but there are some types of produce that you must buy organic for your children’s health. Apples are a perfect example. Here’s a list of the Dirty Dozen, researched by the Environmental Working Group, that you should try to buy organic every time, and if you can’t buy organic for whatever reason, at least scrub and peel (when possible) them before you eat them:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Grapes
  • Pears
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Potatoes

Alternatives to Juice

apple juice alternativesWhen kids are thirsty you can start them early on drinking water. But if they don’t want to drink plain water, at least not all the time there are some fantastic substitutes that are so much healthier for them than apple juice!

  • For a fruit fix, choosing whole fruit instead of juice is always a good idea.
  • Coconut water is refreshing, naturally sweet, and perfect for active kids!
  • Flavored water’s another good alternative, but not that pre-packaged stuff they sell at the store that usually contains artificial sweeteners like sucralose. Instead, fill a pitcher with water and add their favorite fruits (organic)—cucumbers, limes, lemons, berries, mint, etc—and let them set overnight in the refrigerator. You could even make your own lemonade with lemon and a little stevia. I was over at a friends house this summer and her daughter made us strawberry water from strawberries she picked in their garden!
  • The Glowing Green Smoothie . I’ve had clients’ toddlers and kids cry for their GGS. Starting young, these little ones love the taste and drink a few glasses of it.
  • Watermelon Slushie

Of course, if you have a juicer and your son or daughter wants to have apple juice on occasion, you can purchase organic apples and juice them in your own kitchen. You can experiment by adding other types of fruit (or greens, when they’re not looking!), too. Water is best, but sometimes kids insist on more flavor than that. And try not to give into the hype about the latest raspberry diet or miracle water; the only thing you need to worry about is drinking enough water and eating enough vegetables.

If you’re experiencing parental guilt over letting your child consume apple juice over the years, stop! You didn’t know inorganic arsenic was there (even the FDA said there was absolutely nothing to worry about and is only now admitting that there could be a problem worth addressing). Just move forward with the healthier drink options, buy organic when it matters most (or always, if you can), and have the whole family follow the Beauty Detox principles as much as possible. They don’t have to be perfect, but small steps add up and having more whole foods will make a big difference for everyone.

Also keep in mind that providing healthy organic foods for the entire family doesn’t always have to be expensive. Here are tips on how to eat healthy on a budget.

Love to you and yours.




Last updated: Friday, June 19, 2015
  • Lynn Leonti

    I watch my two granddaughter’s about 30 hours a week and we make smoothies all the time. I also bought popsicle molds and we freeze smoothies for a great snack. You can cut up pieces of fruit to add to the popsicles too. Healthy and no added sugar. I have a Nutribullet for small amounts of smoothies so they can each make their own.

  • Pfred

    Perfect timing with school starting. Hope someone takes heed.

  • John Plummer

    How about eating the whole apple, including the core? I’ve heard the seeds contain arsenic. I’ve also heard that some arsenic may be good for you, and supposedly increases endurance. Thanks.

  • Eric Esquivel

    Environmental Working Group failed to add Corn to there dirty dozen. They even go as far to add Sweet Corn to there clean 15 list. This year GMO Sweet Corn has been introduced to the American public for direct consumption. Even if you believe gmo’s are safe; you have to at least consider the heavy amount of herbicides and pesticides that are constantly sprayed on these crops. Also that the FDA is considering raising the limits on the amount of such chemicals to be sprayed on our food; while other countries are banning some uses and putting more limits on others.

  • Lynne Zachrich

    How can we be sure organic is really organic? It appears as though
    nothing anymore is sacred.

    • Carol

      Garden! :) Also, if you find a local food co-op/CSA (community supported agriculture) sometimes you can get to know the organic farmers in your area and that could lead to better trust.

  • Liette

    I heard that all seedless watermelons are GMOs! Is that true?

  • Sayuri06

    Martinelli’s Apple Juice does NOT contain any arsenic. In fact, they annually check their apple juice over multiple laboratories and the tests have shown consistently no detectable traces of arsenic.

  • Michelle Mav

    This reminds me of having amalgam fillings- “safe mercury” for the body. You just have to be your own advocate you cant rely on the FDA or any organization to promise you a healthy and safe food supply. Shop local and organic, make your own food!

  • Juan Johnson

    Kimberly. you should write a baby book. I’d be super appreciative. Love your work. Mwah.

    • Anita

      I second that! Kim’s next book should be on eating when pregnant and feeding growing kids and teens :)

  • Danielle

    I get the organic honest kids brand juice pouches, but not the apple one because my son does not like it. My son likes smoothies so we make those and he loves eating whole fruit especially grapes. He doesn’t really like the green smoothies though. The juice pouches are convenient for lunches although he brings a water bottle in addition and drinks that.

  • Karen

    Could some of the arsenic found in the juice be attributed from the arsenic found in the seeds?