The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is continuing to test imported shipments of orange juice for the fungicide carbendazim before allowing them to enter commerce. Preliminary test results for three samples are negative, according to an agency spokesman.
“Nothing is being banned, just held while it is being tested,” said FDA’s Sebastian Cianci, when asked to clarify whether FDA was banning imported orange juice. Testing for carbendazim, which is not approved for use in the United States but is widely used abroad to control mold, can take 5 to 10 days to complete, according to Cianci.
In late December, Coca Cola alerted FDA that it had detected low levels of carbendazim in both the company’s own juice, as well as in samples taken from a competitor’s orange juice and juice concentrate currently on the market. Coca Cola sells orange juice under the brands Minute Maid and Simply Orange, but did not specify which brands had tested positive for traces of the fungicide.
In a letter sent to juice processors Monday, FDA said it is not concerned about the safety of the orange juice and is not requesting a recall, but that the agency may act if it gets positive test results.
“[I]f the agency identifies orange juice with carbendazim at levels that present a public health risk, it will alert the public and take the necessary action to ensure that the product is removed from the market,” said the letter, which added that any imported shipments testing positive for the fungicide would be denied entry.
“The FDA appreciates the industry informing the FDA of the issue,” concluded the letter. “We request that you inform us of the juice industry’s plans for ensuring that suppliers in Brazil (or elsewhere) refrain from using this pesticide in a manner that results in illegal residues in orange juice products intended for the United States.”
Bloomberg reported Thursday that European officials are considering whether to increase testing for carbendazim in Brazilian imports. The EU does not allow more than .2 milligrams per kilogram — or .2 ppm — of the fungicide in juice.
The EPA has concluded that carbendazim at levels below 80 ppb in orange juice does not pose a risk to public health. FDA said it would reject imported juice that contained 10 ppb.