PepsiCo Says Fungicide Detected In Tropicana Orange Juice

PepsiCo just announced that an uapproved fungicide was detected in its Tropicana orange juice. The company said that levels were below federal safety concerns.

In a statement this weekend, PepsiCo said that it was conducting more tests following a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement that it was suspending orange juice imports and removing juice determined to contain dangerous levels of the fungicide, carbendazim, said Reuters.

The orange juice 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 then advised the FDA about a potential problem in the industry, said Reuters. As we’ve written, Coca-Cola Co. wrote to the FDA last month to advise that it detected low levels of carbendazim in its own and a competitors’ juice.

Fungicides control fungi or fungal spores in agriculture, explained The Associated Press (AP) previously; 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 all U.S. orange juice.

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 previously. 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.

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. 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.

Meanwhile, in the United States, carbendazim is used on nonfood items such as paints, textiles, and ornamental trees, explained Reuters, adding that U.S. authorities do allow trace amounts of carbendazim in 31 different food types, such as grains, nuts, and some noncitrus fruits.

“The results we have, to date, confirm that the levels of fungicide in the imported Brazilian juice we tested are below the levels the agencies said raise safety concerns,” PepsiCo said. “We will continue to test, as we take this matter seriously, and we’re working aggressively to address any concerns,” it added, wrote Reuters.

Late last week, U.S. health regulators allowed the first shipments of imported orange juice to enter the country since the suspension on January 4, said Reuters. According to the FDA, its final tests confirmed that three samples of Canadian orange juice were free of carbendazim, said Reuters; results are pending on 28 import samples from Brazil, Mexico, and Canada.

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