The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is ramping up testing for a fungicide recently found at low levels in orange juice, the agency said in letter to juice processors Monday.
In late December, the agency was alerted by a juice company that it had detected carbendazim — in the low parts per billion range, according to FDA — in both the company’s own juice and samples taken of a competitor’s orange juice and orange juice concentrate currently on the market.
“In the United States, however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not approved carbendazim for use as a fungicide on oranges, nor has it established a tolerance or an exemption from the need for a tolerance for carbendazim in orange juice in the United States. Thus, carbendazim in orange juice is an unlawful pesticide chemical residue under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act,” said FDA in the letter, which was sent to the Juice Products Association.
The reports from industry that alerted FDA to the issue indicated that the juice it tested had come from oranges grown in Brazil, where the fungicide is used to combat a type of mold.
The FDA said it’s not concerned about the safety of orange juice and is not calling for a recall, but the agency will be conducting its own testing. “[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.”