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Web Date: January 30, 2012

FDA Impounds Imported Orange Juice

Contamination: Eleven shipments from Brazil, Canada test positive for illegal fungicide
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: Carbendazim, orange juice, FDA

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 Jan 27. Although FDA says the levels found do not pose a threat to human health, the fungicide is not approved for use on oranges in the U.S. and therefore none of the 11 shipments were allowed to enter the country.

Six of the shipments were from Canada and five were from Brazil. Carbendazim is legally used in Brazil on oranges 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 currently detaining any imported orange juice or orange juice concentrate that is found to contain 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 expects to release those results later this week and says it does not expect to issue any recalls. The problem of carbendazim contamination of orange juice was first reported to FDA last month by Coca Cola (C&EN, Jan. 16, page 23).

 
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