New Study says 85% of Kids' Juices, Snacks Could Contain High Levels of Lead | Seventh Generation
Skip to Content
  • Pin It

New Study says 85% of Kids' Juices, Snacks Could Contain High Levels of Lead

Author: BethArky

Child Drinking JuiceOn the heels of the cadmium-laced Shrek glasses recall comes yet another piece of disconcerting news. This time, it's a study that finds dangerous levels of lead in a staggering number of the juices and snacks we serve our kids. One mommy blogger dubbed it "another day, another uh-oh." I'm having a harder time making light of this latest toxic bombshell.

The lead study is the work of The Environmental Law Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit. The group enlisted a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lab to screen 400 samples from 150 branded products marketed to children, including apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears and peaches (including baby food), and fruit cocktail mixes. The results: 125 out of 146 products tested, or 85 percent, contained alarming amounts of lead. (To read about the sources of the lead, click here.)

Perhaps even more upsetting to those of us trying to do our best by buying organic is the fact that the offenders aren't just the usual suspects. Brands like Earth's Best Organic, 365 Everyday Value Organic and Trader Joe's are in the lineup, right alongside Welch's, Minute Maid, Gerber, Del Monte and Dole. For a complete list of products found to be tainted -- and untainted -- by lead, see here (pdf).

According to the foundation, these products contain enough lead in a single serving to warrant a warning label under California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, or Proposition 65. (Unfortunately, California is the only state that has enacted this kind of law.) Lead has long been known to cause physical and developmental problems. Many scientists, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, concur that there is no "safe" level of lead exposure, especially when it comes to babies and young children, whose brains are still developing.

Prop. 65 requires that makers place "clear and reasonable warnings" on packaging. The Foundation has shared its findings with California law-enforcement officials, and with the affected manufacturers, retailers and distributors. If, at the end of 60 days, no law enforcement agency pursues prosecution, ELF will file a formal suit.

Amid all the bad news, there was a ray of hope. As part of its coverage of the foundation's findings, NPR had David Schardt, the science director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, review the foundation's testing. Schardt concluded, "If you look at the apple juice...there are some manufacturers who managed to avoid the lead entirely. And it would be interesting to find out how they're managing to do that."

The Foundation's lead study is just the latest piece of evidence that says we all need to support the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, now before the House of Representatives. After 34 years of flawed regulations governing toxic chemicals, it's time for a change. The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, which has been working with Seventh Generation for an overhaul of the outdated laws, has sent out an online rallying cry:

"This is our best chance for creating a strong, effective law to protect our families from toxic chemicals for generations to come. Your representative needs to hear from you ASAP!"

If you want to be a part of the solution, go here.

Only radical legal reform -- along with continued monitoring by watchdog groups such as the Environmental Law Foundation -- will keep us and our children safe from known, and unknown, toxins.

photo: Mzelle Biscotte


JJJess picture
InvisiGyrl picture
Coal burning power plants are responsible for a great deal of Mercury and lead contamination. They have been around, polluting, quietly and un-mentioned, almost forgotten in the uproar of nuclear - for DECADES.
souphead picture
Before you post, read the actual report... not just the Summary, not just an alarmist article about the report, but the actual report. First of all, what is "an alarming amount of lead"? The federal government says that ANY amount of lead is unsafe. My guess is that EVERY piece of food we eat has some lead, even miniscule amounts. Are you going to stop eating? Prop 65 specifies minimum levels of lead before mandatory labeling. What are those levels? How many samples of each product exceeded those levels? The report says that lead is in the atmosphere, and settles on plants via rain and exposure to air. So unless you grow your garden in a hermetically-sealed room w/ filtered water, your produce will probably contain lead. And if you feed the plants to your livestock, they will contain lead too. We are told that salmon is extremely healthy, unless it is farmed, because that is anti-environmental and the feed is not healthy. So always eat wild salmon - except that it contains mercury. Some of the juices that did not test positive for lead were the 'discount' brands. Would you rather give those to your kids? They probably contain traces of contaminants that the organic stuff doesn't. What is a concerned person to do? Use calm and rational judgment. Realize that you can't ever be 100% safe, and make the decisions that feel right. If you can afford it, buy local, organic produce, or grow it yourself. Reduce the number of processed foods in your diet. Eat a reasonable amount of meat. Feed your children food that is age-appropriate. Get politically active.
bigteamug picture
Now I'm worried about other stuff made with juice - ever think about all the fruit snacks you buy, made with fruit juice, hoping it's healthier than GMO corn syrup junk? I would imagine that like any contaminate going up a food chain, the more concentrated the product, the more lead. I think we'll be cutting back on fruit leathers and gummy snacks in our house. Growing your own may be no better, either, unless you've had your soil tested for lead and know it's clean. Ugh.
beautifultruth picture
I wonder... Could you run the apple juice thru a water filter pitcher (like Brita or Pur) to filter out the lead and other contaminants?
Weatherlight picture
you've grown them yourself. I don't mean you have to have an orchard in your closet, but if you have a porch, balcony, backyard, or large window, you can grow a dwarf fruit tree (or few), even in a pot. If apple trees don't grow well in your climate without significant care (temperature controlled greenhouses, etc), they just weren't "meant" to be grown there. Find something that is. There are plenty of fruits and vegetables that can be grown in very cold climates and in hot deserts with minimal care and artificial intervention. A lot of the problems with our plant foods are due to...consumer habit. Bad habits. So your grandma grew up eating apples, that means you must feed apples to your kids every day? Open your mind to the thousands of other possibilities. People who grow crops commercially often breed, color, dye, etc for things like 1) familiarity to buyers (doesn't matter if a better food is discovered, people won't buy it because they didn't grow up eating it) 2) cosmetic preferences (eg redder tomatoes, even if yellow ones are more delicious, nutritious, etc as an example, or orange carrots instead of the healthier purple ones) 3) ability to store well while looking sellable (eg hard and tough, to minimize bruising from California to Maine and weeks and months of storage and transport) 4) ease of machine harvesting, such as reaching maturity/ripening at the same time instead of throughout the year 5) ability to withstand tons of pesticides (of any sort, "natural" toxins being as powerful as "artificial" ones), synthetic fertilizers, etc, such as by sprayed from aircraft What is low priority or even irrelevant are 1) health 2) taste 3) environmental friendliness So try new species and varieties. And what's more transparent, environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and locally-grown that your own backyard or (if you don't have a yard) your own window? If you have kids, they'll probably love it all.
livingnew picture
Hmm. Wonder if this explains the horrible headaches I get from some apple juice -- even when no ingredients are suspect.
dmforman picture
Where samples taken from different batches of the juice? This would let us know if the "safe" juices and fruit were in fact safe. This would also let us know better how the study was done. What were the lead levels in the "safe" juices? What this shows me is that we have to be vigilant on what we eat and feed our children. Everything in moderation. I am glad that I have not been big on the juices and DS has not really had any.
robin picture
To read what the Environmental Law Foundation thinks about sources of the lead, go to
eepp2002 picture
I find the news about lead in food to be disturbing, of course. I also find the way this was reported -- "at least one sample" or "no samples" to be disturbing. Yes, we need a zero-tolerance policy. But until that day comes, please tell me who the worst offenders are, too. This is also a reminder that "organic" does not mean "safe" or "without pesticides." There are pesticides on organic farms, just not the same ones on big business farms. Unless you live on acres of land you can till and farm yourself, I'm not sure what you can do other than vote for the people who can make changes. As for me, I can't grow much on my apartment stoop, but I grow what I can. And I'm taking part in the political process to take a stand against career politicians whose ethics obviously took a backseat to their wallets a long time ago.
Frantique1 picture
Each of you must take action on these matters. Big business has destroyed the safety of our food by several means. Use of pesticides, herbicides, genetically engineering our food. These are serious issues. Please educate yourselves regarding the major food processing companies - ADM, Cargill - chemical companies - Monsanto who is literally ruining our natural food supply through genetically modifying our seeds and plants to resist heavy doses of chemicals. Roundup-major chemical-is showing up in children and studies have shown serious affects on humans and animals. Justice Clarence Thomas was previously the main attorney for Monsanto and votes in favor of the industrial food complex each time organic and chemical safety issues come before the court. Tom Vilsak the secretary of Agriculture was also a major player at Monsanto. So, when you fail to educate yourself about your politicians backgrounds or fail to educate yourself before you vote - these are the results. Learn to grow your own food and process it as well. Or find small farmers who CARE ABOUT OUR EARTH. Grass fed chicken, pork,beef,bison, duck etc and vegetables abound at farmers markets. Some farmers markets are not as they seem and are commercial venues prettied up to present themselves as healthy. Check with the organization managing the market as they will know if they have organic certifications required.
wifey247 picture
This news is very upsetting! I myself tried to think of how many times I gave my son one of the juices that I thought was safe. It is my job to protect him and give him good things that will not harm him, what had I done. Then I begin to think I hardly ever give my son full juice it is usually half juice and half water. So depending on the amount they tested, the levels that some of us have given our sweet little blessings may not be so bad this far. I'm not by any means taking this news lightly. I just wanted to meantion something I do that I know some other parents do that may have helped our children a little safer this far. As for the future I think my son will just drink water untill we can find out where the lead is comming from.
jcsestak picture
this artical is a little misleading at worst, confusing at best. is it being alleged that the lead is from the packaging (reference to Shrek glasses)? or something else? I'm all for putting information in peoples' hands to help them make informed choices for themselves and their families, but let's not throw around statistics like this without knowing exactly what we're talking about? is the lead from packaging, processing, farming? are glass bottles/jars free from this problem? scaring is not educating. when statistics are cited, details please.
hlb06330 picture
As a mom of 5 boys, one with special needs, this breaks my heart. It brings back all the emotions of finding out my son's favorite, well loved toy, Curious George was recalled due to lead. In his short 5 years we have had to send back at least a dozen toys to different companies due to lead. As a parent you try to be ever so vigilant but to say just eat an apple, doesn't fix the problem. Those apples could have been sprayed with pesticides or the orchard, though organic, still could have residue in the soil. How do we know? Demand testing of soil and products labeled organic and eat only organic? It's very hard to do so when you don't have access to the stores and markets that carry the products. Just because you make the food from scratch does not mean it isn't affected. And as we have seen from this testing, organic doesn't mean safe now either.
msmichalek picture
This all in all is scary, but the biggest thing is... what now? Do we just not feed fruits to our kids or even ourselves? That seems drastic but what else is there to do?
lowbudgetdiva picture
07/08/10 How does it get into our foods? Most likely through pesticides that contain lead. Because it doesn't degrade, lead can be present even in an orchard that is now organic. There doesn't seem to be any evidence thus far to support the idea that the lead is coming in in the processing phase, so eating fresh fruits may not take care of the issue. I know it's tempting for some parents to take a holier than thou attitude when it comes to what we feed our kids, but don't assume that your consumer choices are going to exempt you from the ill effects of big agribusiness and the legacy of harmful pesticides.
5webs picture
I still find this alarming...where on earth is the lead coming from? The containers? the fruit? the machines on which they were processed? We need to know.
hette123 picture
How does it get into the foods? This makes me sick! My toddler has been drinking this apple juice and I feel badly for exposing him to it, all the while thinking it was the healthiest option.
hette123 picture
How does it get into the foods? This makes me sick! My toddler has been drinking this apple juice and I feel badly for exposing him to it, all the while thinking it was the healthiest option.
jacygarrison picture
I didn't see any mention of where in the processing "process" the lead is coming from? Does anyone know?
susannefrank picture
This story put me over the edge, too. It seems like, no matter how vigilant we are at the check-out stand, we are still unknowingly exposing our families to untested chemicals. How can this be? Our lax federal laws don't require chemicals in products like juice boxes and baby bottles to be proven safe before they land in our grocery carts. The only real solution is to ask Congress to pass common sense limits on toxic chemicals. If you are as tired of those 'uh-oh' moments, as I am, please sign up for the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign here: There you will find ways to directly influence Congress as they consider new legislation. No more 'uh-ohs'!
JessyS picture
Where's the mass recall?? Is this level of lead "acceptable"... ??
JessyS picture
How can we know for sure if making our own fruit cocktail or juicing apples ourselves will be any better? From what I understand the contamination of lead is coming from where the fruits are grown. The lead is in the water... so where does that leave us, really?
birkenmommy picture
This news is very disturbing but it has a pretty simple solution - eat real food. Make your own darn fruit cocktail, eat an apple instead of drinking apple juice processed god-knows-where. Kids (and grown-ups) don't have to drink juice - it doesn't provide us with any special benefit that we cannot get from eating the unprocessed fruit. Convenient, certainly. Necessary - not even.
Juliet37 picture
My kids drink a lot of the Apple & Eve Organics. Does this mean it was not tested and could contain lead?
sarah_holst picture
Just curious to know if any of the companies have responded to the findings, especially the organic companies.
karvetski picture
I wish they had done OJ as well. Like Michael Pollan says, eat stuff that comes from a plant, not made in a plant. Even juice. So disturbing.
hubbmeg picture
This is totally disturbing! Thanks for the info! My question would be do the Gerber baby food (stages 1 & 2) Peaches and Pears also contain lead? I'm sure they do since stage 3 does. So scary. I make most of my sons babyfood myself....of course, except for the peaches and pears. Looks like I might start now.