If you happen to notice sometime later this year that you’re suddenly paying a lot more for orange juice, you can blame America’s food safety authorities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, after several weeks of deliberation, has blocked imports of frozen, concentrated orange juice from Brazil, probably for the next 18 months or so, even though the agency says the juice is perfectly safe.
The FDA’s explanation is that its hands are legally tied. Its tests show that practically all concentrated juice from Brazil currently contains traces of the fungicide carbendazim, first detected in December by Coca-Cola, maker of Minute Maid juices. The amounts are small — so small that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says no consumers should be concerned.
Last week, news broke that the FDA is testing orange juice imports for a fungicide, carbendazim, that’s banned in the United States. Here, the Juice Products Association, the trade group representing juice companies, responds to questions from The Dr. Oz Show.
The FDA is currently testing orange juice imports after the recent discovery of the fungicide carbendazim, banned in the United States. Carbendazim is known to cause liver cancer in animal studies, can be toxic to cell division, which can harm male fertility, and can cause birth defects.
Here, the Juice Products Association responds to our questions on these events and orange juice manufacturing standards.
1. Are American juice companies required to test for carbendazim?
Companies selling foods and beverages in interstate commerce must comply with US laws and regulations. Some of our members rely on government testing while others have more extensive programs. It’s important to note that it was one of our members that discovered the substance and notified the FDA, even though, as the FDA has said, at the low levels found, there are no safety concerns with the Brazilian orange juice our members use in their products.
2. Are American juice companies required to report their test results for carbendazim to FDA?
Yes. Companies selling foods and beverages in interstate commerce must comply with US laws and regulations.
3. Are there other fungicides used in other countries that are not used here that could turn up in imported juice products? (If so, which fungicides?)
As there is no international standard, it is possible that there are others. That’s why juice producers test. Most countries outside the US use the international tolerances set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission established by World Health Organization and Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. In fact, the tolerance for carbendazim in orange juice under Codex is significantly higher than the levels found in Brazilian orange juice, as is the tolerance set by the European Union, Canada and Japan. Continue reading “The Dr. Oz Show – Juice Products Association Q&A: Orange Juice Standards”→
WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration says it will step up testing for a fungicide that has been found in low levels in orange juice.
FDA officials said they aren’t concerned about the safety of the juice but will increase testing to make sure the contamination isn’t a problem. In a letter to the juice industry Monday, the agency said that an unnamed juice company contacted FDA in late December and said it had detected low levels of the fungicide carbendazim in the company’s own orange juice and also in its competitors’ juice. Fungicides are used to control fungi or fungal spores in agriculture.
Carbendazim is not currently approved for use on citrus in the United States, but is used in Brazil, which exports orange juice to the United States. An FDA spokeswoman said the company’s testing found levels up to 35 parts per billion of the fungicide, far below the European Union’s maximum residue level of 200 parts per billion. The United States has not established a maximum residue level for carbendazim in oranges.
In the letter to the Juice Products Association, FDA official Nega Beru said the agency will begin testing shipments of orange juice at the border and will detain any that contain traces of the chemical. Because it is not approved for use in the United States, any amount found in food is illegal.