Brazilian orange juice producers were denied a request on Thursday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow a higher tolerance of fungicide in juice imports.
The decision will see that Brazil, the world’s top orange juice producer, stops exporting orange juice that is made from concentrate to the U.S.
A variety of orange juice made from concentrate contains much smaller levels of carbendazim, a chemical used to help fight mold on orange trees.
Carbendazim is permitted up to a limit in imports to the European Union, which is the main buyer of Brazil’s orange juice.
Brazil asked the FDA to give it until June 2013 to eradicate carbendazim from its juice, which would have extended a ban on the chemical that was put into place in 2009.
Coca Cola alerted the FDA after it had discovered that carbendazim was present in laboratory tests of Brazilian orange juice.
The FDA began to check all imports for the chemical in January, prompting Brazil to ask the regulator for an extension on the 2009 ban.
Brazil asked the FDA to distinguish between frozen concentrate and not-from-concentrate, meaning a 60 parts per billion (ppb) carbendazim tolerance for frozen concentrate. FDA’s current policy requires orange juice in the U.S. to be in the form of diluted not-from-concentrate, containing a content of 10 pbb of carbendazim.
The FDA refused Brazil’s proposal, but one source in the industry told Reuters that, “by the end of the year it is probable that things will be back to normal and we will be shipping concentrated juice to (the U.S.) again.”
The Juice Products Association said it was “disappointed” by the FDA decision, since the Environmental Protection Agency declared that carbendazim levels of up to 80 ppb were no threat to human health.
“The United States cannot grow enough oranges to satisfy American consumer demand for orange juice and therefore juice processors must rely on orange juice concentrate from other countries to assure adequate supplies,” it said in a statement.
FDA said it would not accept the requests of Brazil’s juice industry because laws prohibited it from making exceptions that would accommodate it.
“We recognize that the use in Brazil of a pesticide not authorized in the U.S. and FDA’s detention of shipments bearing illegal residues has affected the orange juice market and has economic impacts,” the regulator wrote in a 1,600 word statement.
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