FDA To Test Orange Juice For Fungicide

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it will test orange juice for a fungicide that has been detected in low levels in the popular fruit juice.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the agency isn’t worried about the juice’s safety, but does plan to ensure contamination isn’t the culprit.

In an FDA letter to the juice industry, an unnamed juice company contacted the agency last month to advise that it detected low levels of carbendazim, a fungicide, in its own and a competitors’ juice, said the AP.

Fungicides control fungi or fungal spores in agriculture, explained the AP; however, carbendazim is not approved for use on United States citrus, but is used in Brazil, which exports orange juice to the U.S. The Baltimore Sun noted that Brazil exports about one-tenth of U.S. orange juice.

Tropicana, a PepsiCo Inc. brand, and Minute Maid, which is manufactured by the Coca-Cola Co., might use a mix of juices in their drinks, including juices from Brazil and the U.S., the Baltimore Sun explained.

An FDA spokeswoman said the company’s testing detected levels of carbendazim of up to 35 parts per billion (ppb), which is below the European Union’s (EU) top residue level of 200 ppb.

The U.S, has not created a maximum residue level for the fungicide in oranges, said the AP; however the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 80 ppb to be a health risk, said the Baltimore Sun.

Nega Beru, an FDA official, in a letter to the Juice Products Association, said the agency will start testing orange juice shipments at the border, detaining any with traces of carbendazim, said the AP. Since the fungicide is not approved for use in the U.S., any detected amount is considered illegal.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which regulates fungicides in the U.S., ran a preliminary initial risk assessment for the fungicide, finding that it does not raise safety concerns, said the Baltimore Sun, citing the Beru’s letter.

According to Cirrus BR spokesman, Christian Lohbauer, Brazil has been using the fungicide for over two decades to help fight against blossom blight and black spot, an orange tree mold, said the Baltimore Sun. Citrus BR is a group that represents Brazil’s four key orange juice producers.

“Any shipment (of orange juice) will test positive … I don’t know what is the level that they will decide is the maximum level,” he said, wrote the Baltimore Sun. “Our interest now is that juice keeps entering the United States,” Lohbauer added.

In 2010, frozen and fresh orange juice imports totaled about 1 billion liters, according to U.S. International Trade Commission data, said The Baltimore Sun. Nearly half of that—about 460 million liters—was imported from Brazil; Mexico supplied about one-third.

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