The Food & Drug Administration has detected low levels of the fungicide carbendazim in 11 shipments of imported orange juice and orange juice concentrate, the agency announced on Jan. 27. FDA says the levels found do not pose a threat to human health, but the fungicide is not approved for use on oranges in the U.S. The agency did not allow any of the 11 shipments into the country.
Six of the shipments came from Canada and five were from Brazil. Carbendazim is legally used on oranges in Brazil to prevent mold. Canada does not grow many oranges and relies heavily on imports from other countries, including Brazil.
The Environmental Protection Agency and FDA have concluded that levels of carbendazim of up to 80 ppb in orange juice do not raise safety concerns. However, FDA is detaining any imported orange juice or orange juice concentrate that contains more than 10 ppb of carbendazim.
The highest level of the fungicide that FDA has found so far is 52 ppb in a shipment of orange juice concentrate from Brazil. To date, FDA has collected samples from 80 shipments of imported orange juice and orange juice concentrate. Of those samples, 29 tested negative and 11 tested positive. FDA is still testing the remaining samples.
For its part, the juice industry is urging FDA to evaluate orange juice “as consumed” rather than as concentrate. “FDA does have enforcement discretion to consider the fact that no one drinks orange juice concentrate,” the Juice Products Association said in a statement. Such a consideration would raise the allowable limit for carbendazim in imported orange juice concentrate to about 60 ppb, the group asserts.
FDA is also testing domestic orange juice and concentrate that is already on the market. The agency was expected to release those results last week after C&EN’s press time and does not anticipate issuing any recalls. Carbendazim contamination of orange juice was first reported to FDA last December by Coca-Cola (C&EN, Jan. 16, page 23).