Did Dr. Oz needlessly alarm viewers about arsenic in apple juice?
I've always considered the syndicated Dr. Oz Show a harmless trifle -- a dizzying blur of health-related jawboning that has been a mostly-disappointing showcase for the telegenic physician.
But Mehmet Oz faces much more damning criticism in the wake of a show Wednesday about arsenic in apple juice produced overseas. The Food and Drug Administration accuses Oz's show of failing to distinguish between types of arsenic that are considered more safe than the type found in pesticides in testing for his segment (their statement about their own testing is here). Other experts say the show's testing itself was too limited to draw broad conclusions about the country's apple juice supply.
Oz faced the cameras of two network TV morning shows today, getting into an argument with Dr. Richard Besser at Good Morning America, who accused the host of "fear mongering" by exaggerating the implications of the show's testing.
Oz told NBC's Today show that the FDA failed to fully share its standards for arsenic evaluation and that they used the standards employed by the agency to judge its results. His explanation sounded a lot like a long-winded way of saying the agency ignored them while they were assembling the segment, so they plowed ahead with the limited information they had.
Last year, The St. Petersburg Times published a story in which we tested several popular brands of apple juice and found arsenic levels that concerned some scientists and parents. But the results were not presented with the same alarmist tone as the Dr. Oz segment employed.
I've already written a bit about the tremendous competition at hand, now that new hosts are jockeying for the timeslots once held by Oprah Winfrey. In Tampa, Oz's show took her timeslot on WFLA-Ch. 8, where Winfey's farewell shows garnered top ratings.
I don't think it's out of bounds to suggest that the pressure of competition, combined with Oz's myriad of professional commitments, might have resulted in a less-than comprehensive segment.
Check out his appearances on TV below -- along with the over-hyped promo for the program -- and see what you think: