Traces of Alar, the controversial chemical used on apples, were found in about three-fourths of 44 apple juices tested, and five brands had "unacceptable" levels," a consumer group reported Wednesday.

Consumers Union, the non-profit group that publishes Consumer Reports magazine, also said 55 percent of the red apples it bought in the New York area were treated with Alar, a chemical spray used to regulate growth and prevent bruising and rotting in storage.The group tested seven apple juices made for babies and found four had no detectable residues and three had very low levels of Alar, which has been linked with growth of tumors in laboratory mice.

None of the apples or apple products tested had Alar levels exceeding the federal health limit of 20 parts per million, but the magazine rated five brands of apple juice "unacceptable" because they had significantly higher Alar residues than other juices. It emphasized the unacceptable rating did not mean the apple juices were unsafe to drink.