Regulatory Science vs. Talk Show Science

October 4, 2011

By Ricardo Carvajal

It almost escaped our notice – a blog posting by FDA asserting that “there is currently no evidence to suggest a public health risk from fruit juices, including apple juice” (emphasis added).  The posting went up the same day as the airing of an episode of the Dr. Oz Show that presented the results of independent laboratory testing conducted at the show’s behest, which purportedly showed high levels of arsenic in apple juice.

Evidently the producers of the show provided the test results to FDA prior to airing the episode, and FDA responded with a letter explaining the inadequacy of the test methodology relied on by the independent laboratory (the lab tested for total arsenic, which does not distinguish between the inorganic and potentially harmful forms of arsenic and the organic and essentially harmless forms).  The letter closed with a strong admonition: “The FDA believes that it would be irresponsible and misleading for The Dr. Oz Show to suggest that apple juice contains unsafe amounts of arsenic based solely on tests for total arsenic.”  The day before the show aired, FDA sent the producers an additional letter taking issue with the accuracy of the test results obtained by the show, and restating the agency’s admonition. 

Nonetheless, the show continues its “Arsenic in Apple Juice” campaign online, and is calling for FDA to set a standard for total arsenic in apple juice.  It won’t happen – but we hazard a guess the flap was good for the show’s ratings.