The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has temporarily halted all orange juice imports to the United States after low levels of an unapproved fungicide known as carbendazim were found in orange juice shipments from Brazil. The FDA plan is to hold back any juice shipments containing more than 10 parts per billion of carbendazim. Although the idea of fungicides in your orange juice is not very appealing, the 10 parts per billion amount was approved because it is very tiny compared to the safety level of 80 parts per billion level that had previously been established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
After a U.S.-based juice manufacturer found 35 parts per billion of the fungicide in juice shipments containing Brazilian orange juice concentrate, calls for the immediate testing of all imported citrus juice for banned chemicals quickly surfaced around the world as other countries became involved with their own testing. Right now, it is unknown if Brazilian orange juice will continue to be allowed into the United States, but the FDA recently said the orange juice currently on the market shelves is safe for consumption.
Brazil's orange harvest and subsequent exports are worth $2 billion for Brazil, making it the biggest orange juice exporter in the world. Brazil's orange growers have been using carbendazim for over 20 years and some have pointed out that carbendazim has been permitted in low levels in Europe and Latin America for several years. It has also been allowed in the United States in trace amounts in other food products, like nuts. The confusion over the allowable amounts led to a situation where many Brazilian orange growers did not even know that carbendazim been banned in orange juice in the United States back in 2009.
The Brazilian growers obviously don't want to lose the American market because the United States buys 15 percent of Brazil's orange juice exports. The growers have said they would be willing to eliminate their use of carbendazim and replace it with other fungicides in order to continue to supply the American market. Orange juice prices would rise around the world if the current orange crop from Brazil is banned from entering the U.S. and the Brazilian farmers say they could produce the next crop totally carbendazim-free if it became necessary. However, the most critical factor for the growers is that people do not become afraid to drink orange juice in the future.
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