The Food and Drug Administration is freezing orange juice imports at U.S. ports while it tests shipments for the presence of the fungicide carbendazim.
The “test and hold” policy covers all imported orange juice, and could hold up shipments for five to 10 business days, according an FDA spokesperson.
“We began sampling import shipments of orange juice from all countries on Jan. 4, and three samples already have preliminary negative results,” said Tamara Ward.
The agency will deny entry to shipments that test positive for carbendazim, a fungicide commonly used on many crops overseas, including citrus fruit. The FDA freeze and testing will have an immediate effect on the supply chains of orange juice producers and distributors and orange juices prices in the U.S.
American consumed about 1.2 million gallons of orange juice in 2009 and 2010, and about 25 percent of all U.S. juice is imported, and often mixed with domestic juice. Orange juice futures tumbled on Wall Street and the price of orange juice skyrocketed in retail stores across the U.S. even before shipments were halted.
A U.S. juice company last month reported low levels of the fungicide in juice imported from Brazil, where carbendazim is widely used, to the FDA. Low levels of carbendazim are not unsafe, the agency said, but the fungicide has not been approved for use on oranges in the U.S., and its presence in juice is illegal.
The FDA will reject juice that contains 10 parts per billion of carbendazim. Trace levels below 80 ppb are not considered a health threat, the agency said. The food safety watchdog will test domestic juice as well, but doesn’t plan to pull it from the market, the FDA said in a Jan. 9 letter to the Juice Products Association.