Dr. Oz Misses Point on Apple Juice

Recently TV celebrity physician, Dr. Oz, made a splash with a statement about apple juice and arsenic.  He has taken some heat for his position.   I have gone back and watched his show and several interviews.   He may be right, but I think he  is missing the real point.  Arsenic may be important, but the real issue is where is your produce grown.

It estimated that 70% of apple juice today comes from China.  China is the same country that put melamine in our pet foods.   China did not have proper measures in place to prevent this, or maybe it was done on purpose to boost protein content, we will never know.   All I know is that pet food not made in the USA no longer comes in my house.   If I don’t trust China for pet food, I personally surely don’t want to eat things processed there.

I used to work for the largest food wholesaler and had occasion to travel with an international produce buyer.  One night on the road we  got to talking about where he had been.  He had traveled all over South America and many Pacific rim countries securing what I knew to be some of the best produce in the world.  I shopped stores supplied by our company and knew personally the quality and variety we stood for.  What I learned that night changed my personal buying habits forever.   It made me acutely aware of what it takes to put fresh produce that we demand year round in our stores.

Here are some thoughts on produce:

  • There are many chemicals(herbicides & insecticides) that are illegal to sell in the US that are still available worldwide.   If you can’t buy it it can never end up on your food.  If you can purchase it, and it will increased your bottom line, do you suppose some farmers in other countries might do so?
  • The US continues to cut big government.  Most of the big shots in agencies still have their jobs,but many of the on-the-ground jobs are being lost.  This means we have fewer food inspectors, this sucks, there is no other word for it.   Do other countries have anything that even closely resembles our crippled, gutted USDA inspection system?  If not, what do you imagine goes on?
  • When produce is shipped across the ocean in those huge containers, the US needs to be protected from invasive species that if imported could damage the domestic produce industry.    These containers of produce are somehow fumigated to kill any bugs.   Think about how that must happen.
  • I am not sure what they do to produce, but it seems awfully slow to spoil, mold or rot.  When I was a kid it seemed that produce rotted almost overnight.  Think about the time line from the time it is picked until it ends up in your home.  Produce from Chile spends 10 days on the water or more on the average; what is it for other countries?  Now add the time from the picking of the produce to get to the ship.   Now add the domestic  handling time; from the ship to the warehouse, the warehouse to the store; the store to your house.  How long does it sit in your refrigerator?  No mold yet.  I am not sure what this means, but I am guess that once again it has somehow been treated with some anti-fungal agent.
This whole hub-bub with Dr. Oz isn’t really about arsenic in my apple juice.   It is about how has your produced been grown and handled.  Is it necessary to each peaches in January  or is it just a treat when Colorado and Michigan peaches are in season?  Do I care if my grapes are grown in Chili or the USA?    This same thing also applies to canned produce as well, some days the debate is a little dicey which is likely safer canned pineapple from the Philippines or Thailand.  Some folks don’t care, or it isn’t a battle they care to fight.   If you can eat local it is great, but where I live in Montana not much is local.   But like me if you do care read the labels on packaging  and produce racks.  Be informed and increase your odds that your food has been handled in a way accepted to you and the risks you are willing to take.