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As if it were not enough to be concerned about harmful dyes in M&Ms and jelly beans, now it's lead in our kids' juice.

It's as if we now have to grow our own food, produce our own juice and make our own candy.

The Environmental Law Foundation, based in Oakland, Calif., recently found that many children's drinks and foods as well as baby foods contain lead.

The group purchased dozens of brands of juices and fruit products around California and sent almost 400 samples to an Environmental Protection Agency-certified lab in Berkeley, Calif.

The foundation looked at apple and grape juices as well as packaged pears, peaches and fruit cocktail. More than 120 of the 146 brands tested had lead levels of at least 0.5 micrograms per serving, which exceeds safety standards, with some surpassing U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards of 6 micrograms of lead per day for children up to age 6 in a single serving.

For children 7 or older, the FDA standard is no more than 15 micrograms per day.

"It's reason for concern," said David Schardt, senior nutritionist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit watchdog organization in Washington, D.C. "These are popular."

Schardt pointed out that some of the products had no lead in them at all, which shows that the product manufacturers can get the lead out.

(For a list of the products with both high and low/no lead content,

Why the concern about lead?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says, "although it has been used in numerous consumer products, lead is a toxic metal now known to be harmful to human health if inhaled or ingested. ... A child's mental and physical development can be irreversibly stunted by overexposure to lead."

Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, who was disturbed by the report, called me while on a trip in Nairobi, Kenya, to voice her concerns about what the foundation found.

Norton has been a leading advocate in the fight against childhood lead poisoning.

"We are greatly concerned about the findings," Norton said. "There shouldn't be any lead in any drinks. ... It's nothing but detrimental and destructive to the human system."

Norton said lead has been used as a stabilizer in various products, most notably in paint and in Chinese-made products.

For a credible organization such as the Environmental Law Foundation to find lead in drinks and food largely consumed by children, it means a serious investigation should be done, Norton said.

"This is a good organization," she said. "We'll ask the FDA to look at this immediately."

So here's the Edge, courtesy of the Environmental Law Foundation:

- Make informed choices. Don't just pick up a product off the grocer's shelf thinking it's safe because of where you bought it or the name brand that's on it. Research the products you are considering before you go shopping.

- Demand information before you buy. Many of the products do not disclose whether they contain lead or other harmful chemicals.

- Advocate for cleaner food and more comprehensive environmental health policies. It's been repeatedly stated that places such as the United Kingdom do not allow harmful chemicals in products that consumers ingest or use on their skin.

Find more information on the foundation's findings on lead in children's food and drink at

Ivan Penn can be reached at or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at and find Consumer's Edge on Facebook.

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Fast facts

Lead in food and drinks

Here is a sampling of the results from the list of apple juice products tested for lead:

For the following products, one or more samples exceeded 0.5 micrograms of lead per serving:

- Beech Nut 100% Apple Juice

- Gerber 100% Juice Apple Juice

- Minute Maid Juice Apple - 100% Apple Juice

- Mott's 100% Apple Juice

For the following products, no samples exceeded 0.5 micrograms of lead per serving:

- Kirkland Fresh Pressed Apple Juice Pasteurized

- Martinelli's Gold Medal Apple Juice 100% pure from U.S. grown fresh apples

- Trader Joe's Fresh Pressed Apple Juice all natural pasteurized, 100% juice

- Tree Top 100% Apple Juice