Last week’s announcement that orange juice imported from Brazil may contain a fungicide not approved for use in the U.S., and several recent reports about the type and quantity of arsenic in apple and grape juices have me asking: Is juice safe for my children to drink?
If you haven’t heard about this issue, you can read about Dr. Oz’s tests on apple juice here, and read an article about the Consumer Reports test results on apple and grape juice here. While most interpretations of the test results suggest the levels of contamination are below the levels of concern, as a parent, I want to know what my children might be drinking. This is particularly important to me, since I purchase 100% juices in order to avoid the additives in “juice drinks.” Arsenic is a known carcinogen, and the lead found in some of the tested samples can affect brain development. The fungicide found in orange juice, carbendazim, affects reproduction in animals.
|Courtesy of Consumer Reports|
How are these chemicals getting into our juice? According to Consumer Reports, in the past, arsenic was used in agricultural pesticides and as a wood preservative for decks and playground structures. It is also released into the air during smelting and coal burning. Lead was also used as an agricultural pesticide. Soils, air, and water remain contaminated from previous and current practices.
I have always been concerned about the amount of juice my children drink, mostly because of its high sugar content. Yes, juice has nutrients like vitamin C and fiber, but the sugars from the fruit are concentrated, making it sweet enough for children (and adults) to drink a lot more of it than they should. Aside from the concerns about ingesting lots of sugar, given a choice, most children would prefer to drink juice instead of water.
My children are no exception, even though I dilute the juice they drink with water. Doing this ensures that they are drinking water in addition to juice and that they don’t grow accustomed to sweet tasting drinks. While my children also drink undiluted juice when others serve it to them, they are in the habit of adding water to their juice themselves when we are at home. They take their cups to the water dispenser and top them off.
If you want to try diluting juice for your children, start off with mostly juice and a little water, then increase the water content little by little. Stronger tasting juices, like grape, are palatable with a lot more water than juice. Thicker juices, like orange, are the other way around.
Another way I limit their juice consumption is by serving only water with lunch. I don’t even ask them what they want to drink when serving lunch; they get a cup of water, and they will often refill it themselves. My older daughter takes a water bottle to school in her lunch box, and can also choose bottled water from the cafeteria line when she buys her lunch. While she doesn’t always drink the whole bottle, she is learning that water is the drink that goes with lunch.