orange juice and fresh oranges
January 29, 2012

Fungicide Found On Some Canadian, Brazilian Orange Juice

Nine shipments of orange juice originating from Brazil and Canada were detained on Friday after they tested positive for the illegal fungicide carbendazim, according to various media reports.

The fungicide, which has not been approved for use on orange trees in the U.S., is commonly used in Brazil to combat blight blossom and black spot mold, according to Anna Yukhananov of Reuters.

FDA testing revealed that none of the shipments tested positive for more than 52 parts per billion (ppb) of the substance, Bill Tomson of the Wall Street Journal's Marketwatch column reported Saturday morning. However, the U.S. health agency had previously vowed to reject any shipment of orange juice found to contain in excess of 10 ppb, he added.

As of shortly after noon on Friday, a total of 29 samples had tested negative, Carrie Gann of ABC News said. Gann also reported that a total of 11 samples -- six from Canada and five from Brazil -- had exceeded the FDA's 10 ppb limits, and were in turn refused entry into the United States. Nine of them were detained, the FDA said in a statement, while the manufacturers opted not to import the other two shipments into the U.S.

Each sample is tested twice, according to the FDA, and at least one of those samples needs to test positive in order for officials to reject the juice shipment. Exporters from Brazil have decried the agency's testing standards as being too strict, according to Tomson, but Yukhananov said that the organization has rejected calls to alter their testing methods and/or regulations.

"Carbendazim has been found to cause birth defects in rodents and some chromosome problems in human cells in laboratories. However, it hasn´t been found to have any health effects for humans," Gann wrote on Friday. "Although low levels of the pesticide have been found, the FDA said they do not pose a significant health threat."

Orange juice testing began on January 4, after the FDA received an advisory from Coca-Cola, distributors of the Minute Maid and Simply Orange brands of juice products, in which the company said that they discovered low levels of the fungicide on their products and in those of competitors.

According to CBS and Associated Press (AP) reports at the time, FDA officials have said that they are not concerned about the safety of the juice, but have nonetheless promised to test more rigorously in order to make sure that the contamination is not a problem. They also noted that orange juice products currently on store shelves will not be pulled since the federal agency does not believe there to be any harm in consuming them.


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