Study Finds Lead In Kids Drinks

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One of our wonderful readers emailed me about this over the weekend (Thanks Vanessa!) and of course I was all over it, checking it out. I’m not the first to report on it but I felt it warranted SafeMama attention. A study done by the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) revealed that a large number of juice and baby food brands, including organic brands,  exceeded levels of lead that would be dangerous for the 6 and under age set. This infuriates me beyond belief.

It infuriates me for obvious reason but mainly because of the inclusion of the brands I have grown to trust showed up on the list.  The Earth’s Best pictured here is a product I have given to my son many times. It sickens me. It’s things like this that make a parent think “I give up! Everything is toxic!” and is really discouraging. So many parents strive to find the best products, the safest products, the best food, buy organic, for our kids only to find out that the things we thought we did right were not.  Who would think a box of organic apple juice could possibly contain LEAD?!

They have published the list of products tested for lead (PDF) and listed the brands that exceeded the CA Prop 65 limit of 0.5 micrograms of lead per serving and those who did not exceed it.

Update (6/15/10) This is the response I got from Earth’s Best on Facebook which is now buried by their father’s day contest submissions:

Earth’s Best: Hi Katherine, thank you for your question. Earth’s Best Organic ® juice products are safe and meet our high standards for quality. The Environmental Law Foundation (“ELF”) claims are specific to California Proposition 65 and name over 100 companies and nearly 400 products. We do not yet have information on the report’s alleged findings on our Earth’s Best Organic® Apple Juice and are currently investigating the matter.

Update (6/16/10) I encourage you, before you freak out entirely, to read the perspective of my friends at Z Recommends on this topic.  I think it’s clear that the issue is something parents are concerned about but perhaps its gotten blown out of proportion –  on purpose.  Definitely something to chew on.

I have also come to a few other realizations since the publication of the study done by ELF. One is the lack of solid information.  They make some very grand claims and provide very little information or details (to the public) about the study claiming its proprietary and legal sensitive. There are questions about what sizes, portions, containers, etc were actually tested and they also do not reveal the actual lead content results.  I have contacted ELF and of course got no response as of yet.  I assume they are busy after announcing this but I am holding out hope to get some clearer facts.

Here’s another take on it from Healthy Child Healthy World.

Apple Juices Tested that exceeded the Prop 65 lead limit:

Beech Nut 100% Apple Juice
Earth’s Best Organics Apple Juice
First Street 100% Apple Cider from concentrate
First Street Apple Juice from concentrate 100% juice
Full Circle Organic Apple Juice
Gerber 100% Juice Apple Juice
Great Value 100% No Sugar Added Apple Juice
Hansen’s Natural Apple Juice
Kroger 100% Juice Apple Juice
Langers Apple Juice 100% Juice
Minute Maid Juice Apple – 100% Apple Juice
Motts 100% Apple Juice
O Organics Organic Unfiltered Apple Juice Not From Concentrate
Old Orchard 100% Apple Juice
Parade 100% Juice Apple
Raley’s Premium 100% Apple Juice not from Concentrate
Safeway 100% Juice Apple Cider
Safeway 100% Juice Apple Juice
Stater Bros. 100% Juice Apple Juice
Sunny Select 100% Apple Juice
Trader Joe’s Certified Organic Apple Juice, pasteurized
Tree Top 100% Juice Apple Cider
Walgreens Apple Juice from concentrate 100% juice
Walnut Grove Market 100% Apple Juice

Grape Juices That Exceeded Prop 65 Lead Limits:

365 Everyday Value Organic 100% Juice Concord Grapes
First Street Grape Juice from concentrate 100% juice
Gerber 100% Juice – White Grape Juice
Great Value 100% Grape Juice
Kedem Concord Grape Juice 100% pure grape juice
Kroger Grape Juice 100% Juice
Langers Grape Juice (Concord)
Langers Red Grape Juice
O Organics Organic Grape Juice from concentrate
R.W. Knudsen Just Concord Grape Juice
R.W. Knudsen Organic Just Concord
Raley’s 100% Grape Juice
Safeway 100% Juice Grape Juice
Safeway Organic Grape Juice
Santa Cruz Organic Concord Grape Juice
Stater Bros. 100% Juice Grape Juice
Stater Bros. 100% Juice White Grape Juice
Sunny Select 100% Grape Juice
Trader Joe’s Concord Grape Juice made from fresh pressed organic concord grapes
Tree Top 100% Juice, Grape
Valu Time Grape Drink from Concentrate
Walgreens Grape Juice from concentrate 100% juice
Walnut Acres Organic Concord Grape
Walnut Grove Market Grape Juice
Welch’s 100% Grape Juice (from Welch’s Concord Grapes)
Welch’s 100% Red Grape Juice from Concentrate

ELF also tested packaged peaches, pears and fruit cocktail – all of which are listed in the document they published online.  (See Here)

What Do I Do Now?

I absolutely loathe posting articles like this when I don’t have a “best course of action” or “alternative” to recommend.  But really, I don’t know what the best thing is to do.  But if you are concerned, like me, I would check your juice box brands and packaged fruit against the PDF and toss any offenders.  Not worth the risk, right?

I have switched my son to filtered water in his packed lunches for camp and school for other reasons beyond this one, so I am one of the lucky ones to not have an issue but I know MANY people rely on boxed drinks and fruit for their kids.  What worries me is that they didn’t test every brand possible, even though they tested a lot.  ELF has issued a violation letter to all offending brands so hopefully measures will be taken.  I know I’ll be waiting to hear a follow up from ELF n the status of this issue and will certainly post follow up here on SafeMama.

In the meantime, I am going to be writing a few letters to the offending brands I have used in hopes that some outraged parents like myself can get these companies to do more proactive testing in areas like this.

Here is an NPR story transcript on the subject.

Posted by: SafeMama Kathy on June 14, 2010


37 Responses to “Study Finds Lead In Kids Drinks”

  1. Christina on June 14th, 2010 2:40 pm

    OMG!! Even TRADER JOE’S?????

    **Throwing hands up in the air**

  2. Julie on June 14th, 2010 5:53 pm

    So is this for all apple juice products or just juice boxes? I give my son Motts apple juice all the time form big bottles from Costo (not juice boxes) so I want to be sure.


  3. SafeMama Kathy on June 14th, 2010 5:57 pm

    @Christina: I KNOW. I had the same reaction haha

    @Julie: That’s a good question. I think the tests were limited to juice boxes and small packaged fruit but I’ll try to find out.

  4. Cathy on June 14th, 2010 6:51 pm

    I’ve pretty much come to the realization that EVERYTHING IS toxic. But, I try to pick my battles and try to limit as much as possible.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the contamination comes from our water and soil and that even baby food is contaminated with lead, and God only know what else. Even the organic whole fruit I buy is probably still contaminated a bit, with SOMETHING! I also wouldn’t doubt this extends to other foods, organic and conventional.

    I personally believe this is PART of the reason why there is such a dramatic increase every few years of ADD/ADHD and autistic cases.

  5. Michelle on June 15th, 2010 12:02 am

    I have a variety of Apple & Eve juice boxes (from Costco) currently in our fridge. They’re actually not on the list so hopefully they’re fine! …right?

  6. SafeMama Kathy on June 15th, 2010 12:42 am

    @Michelle: That’s what I hate about this study is that it doesn’t include every brand so unfortunately, just because its not listed doesn’t mean its in the clear. It just means they didn’t test that brand. I have a few of those in my fridge too – they’re destined for the trashcan. :\

  7. Farrah Rose on June 15th, 2010 3:17 am

    In my opinion, juice boxes are bad. Lined with aluminum (and BPA?), which leaches into the juice, full of sugar and not a good source of nutrition. I say do away with them all together! Get a glass travel bottle (with silicone outer protection) and have water! :)

  8. Farrah Rose on June 15th, 2010 3:18 am


  9. SafeMama Kathy on June 15th, 2010 12:37 pm

    @Farrah: Most juice boxes do have an aluminum layer, however the inner most lining that comes in contact with the liquid is typically food grade polyethylene or blend. No BPA as far as I know.

  10. AJsMomma on June 15th, 2010 12:51 pm

    Can anyone find ANYWHERE in any of those documents where ELF specifically states that it was juice boxes they tested? I can’t. Seems like it might be the big bottles as well or instead of juice boxes.

  11. Cat Martin on June 15th, 2010 1:05 pm

    So what about those milk boxes that you can buy? The ones that are similar to juice boxes (organic valley, Horizon) not the ones we used to get in school. Do they contain lead too?

  12. SafeMama Kathy on June 15th, 2010 2:07 pm

    @AJsMomma: I can’t find it either. I put an email in to ELF to see if I can get that clarified. Since the study was aimed at children’s products I suppose the assumption is that it was aimed at juice boxes. The study may very well include bottled juice as well.

  13. SafeMama Kathy on June 15th, 2010 2:08 pm

    @Cat Martin: ELF did not test milk boxes in their study so we can’t answer that! Sorry :)

  14. deliarose on June 15th, 2010 2:18 pm

    I would be curious to see how many of the apple juice boxes are a product of China. I have a really hard time finding apple juice produced here in the US. Though our system is definitely flawed as far as FDA regulations, I trust it a tiny bit more than food coming from China. They have not completely removed lead from their gasoline, to name one issue. All that exhaust gets into the air, water & soil.

  15. Sarah on June 15th, 2010 3:01 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I agree with deliarose, I too try to find apple juice not produced in China but it is difficult and brands are not always consistant. Now I need to figure out a way to replace my daughter’s juice boxes with something else!

  16. Angela on June 15th, 2010 3:17 pm

    So where is the lead coming from? Do the boxes themselves contain lead and it is leaching into the juice? or is it coming from the juice? If it is the boxes what about everything else made with the same material?!! This is so fustrating!

  17. Sandi on June 15th, 2010 3:24 pm

    Yet another reason to support my decision not to give my daughter juice.

  18. Leona on June 15th, 2010 3:36 pm

    All the more reason to try and use only whole foods where possible. Boooooo. So frustrating.

  19. SafeMama Kathy on June 15th, 2010 3:38 pm

    @Angela: ELF addresses that question in the FAQ document: Scroll down to Page 4.

  20. karina smith on June 15th, 2010 4:27 pm

    i am soo frustrated. i just read the article about vitamins too. i try soo hard to find safe products for my kids, not hfc, no food dye, no preservatives,now we have to worry about lead. nothing is toxic free anymore.the lead is prob coming from the ground and water. everything is contaminated. arrggggggg :(

  21. Nicole on June 15th, 2010 5:17 pm

    I agree that the real question is where is the lead coming from? It shouldn’t be from the packaging (no lead there), shouldn’t be from the manufacturing equipment (should all be stainless steel), so is it in the apples? Or is in the water they’re using to make the juice (if from concentrate)? Or is it in another ingredient used to make the juice?

  22. Nicole on June 15th, 2010 5:21 pm

    Just read the document as suggested, if the source of the lead is environmental, then we should be finding lead in apples or any other ingredients used as well. I don’t think it’s about the juice, but more about the source of the ingredients. Has anyone tested this?

  23. Cicely on June 15th, 2010 5:37 pm

    I just don’t understand why or HOW lead gets into these products??? And why was it so specific to Apples and Grapes??? Is it safe to assume that the lead got into these products through the production process? It certainly makes one weary and leary :-(

  24. Alyson on June 15th, 2010 6:28 pm

    Good grief! If only we could survive off of air…..forget that…it’s polluted as well! How frustrating this is!

  25. Valerie on June 15th, 2010 6:47 pm

    This is one of the more horrifying things I have read lately! I have been giving my 3 year old Trader Joe’s Organic Apple Juice (not juice boxes) daily for 2 years. Please let us know as soon as you can if this applies to all bottles or just boxed juice. Is there a way we can get more information on this study? I don’t see any more detail on their website. Thanks for sharing this bad news!! :)

  26. tt on June 16th, 2010 2:45 am

    my reco… get a juicer and make fresh juices for your children. SO MUCH healthier for you and your family. and now we know, it’s safe too!

  27. Cynthia on June 16th, 2010 3:42 am

    What about boxed milks? Rice Dream rice milk and EdenBled rice & soy milk????

  28. Colleen on June 16th, 2010 3:14 pm

    does welches make juice boxes? I’ve only seen the “single serving: plastic bottles. Makes me think they tested both boxes and bottles

  29. SafeMama Kathy on June 16th, 2010 3:17 pm

    @Cynthia I only know what is provided by the ELF study… they did not test those products, only the ones listed in the PDF.

  30. Aimee on June 16th, 2010 11:23 pm

    Yikes. This sucks :( Agreed with tt- make our own whenever possible. Also, as many of us know, what we put IN our bodies is just as important as what we put ON. Here’s a great short video to watch and share with others, “Unmasked: The Truth About Cosmetics”

  31. bonnie cary on June 17th, 2010 2:58 am

    oh wow, i’m shocked. for months and months the only apple juice my baby son has drank is the gerber apple juice. guess there won’t be anymore of it in my home now.

  32. Dani on June 18th, 2010 6:18 pm

    My lo has had no juice, and won’t until he’s much older. There is no reason to take up space in their little tummies with such a low nutrient food. However, if the problem is in the apples/grapes I’m wondering if the whole fruit is safe? Wish I had a back yard to put in my own organic farm!

  33. mattiefraz on June 20th, 2010 2:47 am

    seriously? ELF lights cars at dealerships on fire! hard to trust them…

    I think the moral of the story is, home grown and as raw as you can get is best….

  34. karla on June 21st, 2010 6:55 pm

    I agree with mattiefraz. Home grown and as raw as possible. No questions asked.

  35. Katie on June 22nd, 2010 6:16 pm

    I buy these, and reuse the bottles. They are BPA, lead free, and NO SPILL!! I buy the bigger bottles of juice to refill them with..

  36. Alexandra McStay on July 8th, 2010 1:07 am

    You know, this just makes me want to become even more self sufficient than ever. We might not buy a juicer because most of our fruit is imported and gassed so that’s not much better for you, but still… def. makes me want to continue to make everything from scratch.

  37. Jennifer H on July 9th, 2010 8:28 pm

    To be certified as “organic” an orchard cannot use pesticides for a period of 3 years prior to certification. That’s great but those nasty chemicals remain in the soil for decades so even organic fruits/veggies may contain residual chemicals.

    I have called Earth’s Best and asked about their testing since I have an infant. They say they test their products frequently. I can only take their word for it. There’s nothing to guarantee that if I buy organic fruit at the farmer’s market and make my own baby food (which I sometimes do) it’s going to be absent of any of the nasties, either (much of this area was farmland a few decades ago). We don’t drink juice, use BPA/phthalate-free products, read the reports on our local water, etc… but we can’t live in a bubble so we make the best decisions we can with the data we have. Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World is a good resource.

    Thank you for again presenting the “rational” story.