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Does FDA Establish Heavy Metal Limits in Food?

October 16, 2014
Question 

In the U.S.A., does has the FDA established maximum limits for heavy metals in food?

Answer 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not established regulatory limits for heavy metals in finished food products other than bottled water. However, the Agency has provided guidance on some heavy metal levels in certain foods (such as candy and juice). For juice, FDA states in its "Guidance for Industry: Juice HACCP Hazards and Controls" that lead levels in juice above 50 ppb may constitute a health hazard. With respect to candy, FDA recommends a maximum lead level of 100 ppb in candy likely to be consumed by small children.

FDA also published a draft guidance on inorganic arsenic in apple juice in July 2013. In that draft guidance, FDA stated that it considers 10 micrograms/kilogram (or 10 ppb) an achievable action level for inorganic arsenic in single-strength (ready-to-drink) apple juice. In addition, under Section 402(a)(1) of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act, if FDA finds a contaminant in a food that poses a health hazard, such that the food is deemed to be adulterated, it can take appropriate enforcement action.