The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced that an orange juice recall is not needed following its testing that did not reveal measurable amounts of the banned fungicide, carbendazim, in Brazilian oranges.
PepsiCo recently announced that the 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 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 agency began testing orange juice on January 4.
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. Carbendazim, which is used in Brazil to protect its orange grows from mold, has been linked to liver tumors in animals.
U.S. health regulators just allowed the first shipments of imported orange juice to enter the country since the January 4 suspension. According to the FDA previously, its final tests confirmed that three samples of Canadian orange juice were free of carbendazim; results were pending on 28 import samples from Brazil, Mexico, and Canada.
Of 45 samples collected, said The Washington Post, 19 did not contain measurable amounts of carbendazim; 12 of those were released, according to the FDA. The Post noted that samples tested, to date, originated in five countries. None of the samples are from Brazil.
Concerning orange juice on store shelves, said Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, in a blog posting, a recall is not warranted since a preliminary EPA risk assessment EPA found carbendazim levels of reported by Coca Cola “were far below any level that could pose a safety concern,” according to The Post. Coca Cola reported levels of up to 35 ppb in the samples it tested. The FDA is now testing 14 samples of domestic orange juice, said The Post.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture data indicates that Americans—the largest orange juice importer—consumed 1.2 million gallons of orange juice from the 2009-2010 growing season; it took in 190,000 metric tons in 2011, said Bloomberg. The European Union imported 800,000 tons in the same period. Most orange juice sold in the U.S. is a mix of domestic and imported orange juice, said the Juice Products Association.
Fungicides control fungi or fungal spores in agriculture; however, carbendazim is not approved for use on United States citrus, but is used in Brazil, which exports orange juice to the U.S. Brazil exports about one-tenth of all U.S. orange juice.
The FDA stated that ¾ of orange juice consumed in the U.S comes from domestic oranges. The Post pointed out that the EPA has stated that although carbendazim is not used on domestic orange trees, it is still used on other U.S. crops, such as almonds, apples, peaches, and strawberries.