We’ve long pointed out that “scarecrow” Dr. Oz’s TV show is far more about showmanship than any credible advice about food and nutrition. And now we’re not the only ones criticizing Dr. Oz: The Food and Drug Administration has jumped into the ring.
In a recent episode, Oz reports results from apple juice samples his show sent to a laboratory for testing. He states that some of the samples contained arsenic in levels surpassing the FDA’s maximum contaminant level for arsenic in drinking water.
Sounds scary, right? Read on.
The FDA wrote The Great Oz to take issue with his presentation. One senior FDA science advisor told Oz (before the show aired): “The FDA believes that it would be irresponsible and misleading for The Dr. Oz Show to suggest that apple juice contains unsafe amounts of arsenic based solely on tests for total arsenic.” That’s because there are two forms of arsenic—organic and inorganic—and only the latter is toxic to people.
Moreover, the FDA later performed its own testing—from the same lot that yielded Oz’s highest levels of arsenic—and got much lower results. “In short, the results of the tests … do not indicate that apple juice contains unsafe amounts of arsenic,” the FDA told Oz in a second letter.
Oz went forward with the show anyway, despite the FDA’s initial warnings. (The juice industry didn’t feel like going on Oz’s show—who can blame them, given Oz’s past anti-business tone—so Oz brought on an environmental activist. Classy.) To be fair, Oz gave a mealy-mouthed disclaimer on air that parents shouldn’t worry about one box of apple juice. Um, okay, then why all the hype?
Fortunately, Oz is still taking heat. ABC News’s Dr. Richard Besser told Oz that this reminds him of “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater.” And Stanford’s Dr. Henry Miller had this to say: “Unless there is evidence that a substance is present at sufficient exposures and levels to cause harm, warnings about its presence in food (or in our bodies, for that matter) is irresponsible alarmism. This is the same sort of rubbish peddled by radical environmental activist organizations about pesticides.”
Ah yes—the mere presence of a substance doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily harmful. That’s the big con of the environmental movement in particular, which ignores the centuries-old adage that “the dose makes the poison.” Ignoring this also apparently makes for good, but irresponsible, TV drama.
You’ll probably recall that this maxim applies to seafood, too. There are trace amounts of mercury in fish, but despite the blusters from environmental and animal-rights groups, we’re generally not eating enough to be at a legitimate risk. In fact, we could often be eating more and enjoying more of the well documented benefits of omega 3s for hearts and brain development. (Check out our handy seafood calculator for more information.)
Congrats to Dr. Oz on producing a modern-day Alar-in-apples scare. Anytime Oz wants to cut out the nonsense and strive for credibility, though, he’s welcome to. In fact, we’d dance and be merry, and life would be a ding-a-derry.