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Apple juice arsenic debate a sweet ratings booster for ABC

September 26, 2011

Nothing makes me happier than a catfight between TV doctors. Actually, I didn’t know that nothing made me happier than a public catfight between TV doctors until I saw one last week, and realized I hadn’t been so amused since I saw the tea party openly cheering for human deaths.

The whole MD flame-up was caused by apple juice. You can pretend you didn’t see that one coming if you want, but apple juice has been a powder keg for years.

Setting the match was one “Dr. Oz,” (this would appear to be his real name, although it took four days and multiple affidavits before I was finally convinced) who said that apple juice is bad medicine because it contains arsenic.

Enter “Dr. Besser” of ABC TV, who said that the whole thing was stupid, and added that “you can’t spell Bozo without o-z.”

There’s a chance I made that last part up, but this whole thing is so surreal, who knows?

Dr. Oz (I think he should start a practice with Dr. Mosis, so you could be healed by Oz-Mosis) tested apple juice samples and discovered that several popular brands had arsenic levels above what the government allows in public drinking water.

Apparently, more than half of the apple concentrate used for juice comes from overseas, where pesticides are not so closely regulated. So I assume we’re falling back on that hoary old “blame China” scenario.

Even so, I’m not sure I’m terribly concerned. Worrying about arsenic in apple juice is kind of like being concerned about mercury in a Twinkie.

The whole thing brings to mind the cliff-jumping scene in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

“Arsenic? Are you crazy? The sugar will probably kill you.”

So anyhow, in steps the FDA (Motto: “Keeping You as Healthy as Monsanto Says We Can”) telling everyone to remain calm, all is well, because Dr. Oz’s methodology was flawed.

According to the FDA, Dr. Oz conducted his investigation into these gigantic, juice-making corporations without first checking to see how much campaign money they paid to members of Congress.

Therefore, his results might be tainted by “facts” that agribusiness considers to be malignantly off-message.

Further — and this part is actually accurate, even though it might be even harder to believe — the FDA said that Dr. Oz “did not distinguish harmful inorganic arsenic from the organic type.”

Organic arsenic? What will those hippies think of next? Makes me want to walk into the supermarket and demand organic mothballs.

I don’t know the first thing about chemistry, obviously, but am I to understand there is a “good arsenic,” much like there’s a “good cholesterol”?

I guess, because into the doctoral fray leaped this Dr. Besser, who seems to be ABC news’ color analyst on matters of the heart, lungs, kidneys, etc.

By dissing juice boxes, Dr. Besser said, Dr. Oz was “yelling ‘fire’ in a movie theater.” I might have gone with, “yelling ‘worm’ in a packing house,” but that’s just me.

And then, sir-prize, sir-prize, sir-prize — just when you most expected it — the two doctahs wind up squaring off on ABC television in a no holds-barred medical grudge match over apple juice that, you know, is must-see TV and makes you pretty sure the whole controversy has been one big setup from the get-go.

Nice that ABC cares so much about health — the health of its ratings, that is.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant at www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable’s WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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