FDA Detains More Orange Juice Imports

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has detained more orange juice imports being shipped in from Brazil and Canada to the United States because of concerns they may be tainted with an unapproved fungicide.

As we’ve mentioned, PepsiCo recently announced that an unapproved fungicide was detected in its Tropicana orange juice, adding that the levels were below federal safety concerns. The fungicide scare followed a discovery by Coca-Cola Co., which makes Minute Maid orange juice, that its juice shipments from Brazil also contained carbendazim. Coca-Cola advised the FDA about a potential problem in the industry when it detected low levels of carbendazim in its own and a competitors’ juice.

The FDA previously announced that an orange juice recall was not needed following its initial testing that found amounts of the banned fungicide, carbendazim, in Brazilian oranges, was not sufficient to warrant a recall. The agency began testing orange juice entering the United States on January 4.

U.S. health regulators recently allowed the first shipments of imported orange juice to enter the country since the January 4 testing. Now, said Fox News, three shipments from Brazil and six from Canada contained carbendazim and were detained. The FDA said it has no plans to change the way in which it tests for carbendazim.

The FDA said that the fungicide will continue to remain illegal in citrus at any level in the U.S., although industry groups in the U.S. and Brazil have asked the regulator to consider its position on the fungicide which is used there to fight blight blossom and black spot, a mold that plagues orange trees, said Fox News. Fungicides control fungi or fungal spores in agriculture.

The U.S. Juice Products Association and Brazil’s CitrusBR have asked the agency to increase the allowable about of carbendazim it will allow into U.S. by raising the legal limit for frozen concentrated juice. “If this were considered, the whole problem would have been already resolved,” said CitrusBR’s Christian Lohbauer, wrote Fox News.

The U.S. has not created a maximum residue level for the fungicide in oranges; however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 80 parts per billion (ppb) to be a health risk. Since the fungicide is not approved for use in the U.S. on citrus, any detected amount in citrus products is considered illegal.

The groups are asking the FDA to differentiate between ready-to-drink and frozen concentrate, saying that because concentrate is diluted before drinking, the level could be close to 60 ppb, while not exceeding the FDA’s legal limit for drinkable juice, said Fox News. The FDA maintained that imports with detectable levels of fungicide—anything above 10 ppb—are not allowed into the U.S.

According to Lohbauer, frozen juice exceeds the limit because of its concentrated form. “The agency is using this lower maximum level … because the letter of the law requires the agency to do so,” the U.S. Juice Products Association said in a statement. An increase would be logical to protect consumers, it added, said Fox News.

“We’ve stated before that we would test imports on an ‘as is’ basis, and that’s still our policy,” FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey told Fox News.

Carbendazim has been linked to liver tumors in animals.

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