After collecting samples from 80 shipments of imported orange juice or orange juice concentrate, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it has found residue from a prohibited fungicide in 11 shipments.
Nine of the shipments testing positive for carbendazim have been detained and importers withdrew the other two shipments, the FDA said Friday in its weekly update on the stepped-up testing program, which began Jan. 4.
Although the FDA says all of this juice is safe, carbendazim is not approved for use in the United States, so juice containing even trace amounts must be detained. After FDA refuses entry to a product, the importer has 90 days to export or destroy it.
Of the 11 positive samples, six were shipments from Canada and five were from Brazil. Canada does not grow oranges, so the shipments from Canada likely had been routed there from Brazil.
So far, 29 shipments have tested negative for carbendazim, which is used to prevent mold on orange trees.
Of those carbendazim-free samples, 14 were shipments from Mexico, seven from Canada, two from Costa Rica, two from Brazil, and one each from Belize, Honduras, Lebanon and Turkey, the FDA reported.
In late December, Coca Cola alerted the FDA that it had detected low levels of carbendazim in its own juice, as well as in samples taken from a competitor’s orange juice and juice concentrate imported from Brazil.
In response, the agency said that while orange juice with low levels of the fungicide presents no risk, it would refuse entry to any imported orange juice products containing carbendazim at 10 parts per billion (ppb) or greater.
The EPA has concluded that carbendazim at levels below 80 ppb in orange juice does not pose a health hazard. The European Union’s maximum allowable level is 200 ppb.
Highest levels found so far by the FDA were up to 52 ppb in a shipment from Brazil. Most of the shipments refused entry had much lower amounts of the fungicide residue.
The FDA is also testing orange juice from domestic manufacturers and said results of those tests will be posted next week.