"Overall, the supply of apple juice is very safe and does not represent a threat to public health," FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told the Associated Press on Friday. "We decided to put forward this proposed action level to give guidance to industry and to assure ongoing safety and quality."
Arsenic is a cancer-causing chemical found in everything from soil to water to pesticides.
In 2008, the FDA set a "level of concern" for arsenic at 23 parts per billion in apple juice. However, agency officials played down the significance of the older figure this week, describing it as a "back of the envelope" calculation that was used to assess one juice shipment detained at the border, the AP reported.
"It was not a full blown, science-based number," said Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods.
A limit as low as 3 parts per billion had been called for by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports. While the FDA didn't implement that low a limit, the group still praised the agency for taking action.
"While we had proposed a lower limit, we think this is a perfectly good first step to bring apple juice in line with the current drinking water limits," Urvashi Rangan, the group's director for consumer safety, told the AP.
New limits on arsenic in rice are also being considered by the FDA. Rice is believed to have higher levels of arsenic than most foods because it is grown in water on the ground, ideal conditions for absorbing the chemical.
Responding to the Consumer Reports study in November, the Juice Products Association issued a statement saying that juice is safe for all consumers, adding the industry "adheres to FDA guidelines and juice products sold in the U.S. meet and will continue to proactively meet or exceed the federal standards," the Los Angeles Times reported.