The Food and Drug Administration cleared the first three shipments of imported orange juice tested for an illegal fungicide, but 28 shipments of juice and concentrate are still on hold pending test results, the federal agency said Friday.
It may be two to three weeks before tests are completed and the shipments are allowed to proceed, the agency said in a statement. Juice or concentrate that contains even traces of the fungicide carbendazim will be denied entry.
The agency last week said it would stop orange juice at ports after a U.S. juice producer found carbendazim in its products and competitors’ juice. The FDA began sampling and testing imported and domestic orange juice Jan. 4.
The fungicide is considered harmless in the trace levels detected by juice makers Coca-Cola and Pepsico in recent weeks, but it is not legal for use on crops in the U.S. The FDA doesn’t consider the chemical a health risk at low concentration.
Incoming shipments of orange juice products, including powdered products, ready-to-serve juice and concentrate, are being sampled at the border or U.S. ports. Initial screening at FDA labs takes four to five days, if no carbendazim is detected.
If carbendazim is found in the initial screening, additional analysis may take seven business days, according to the FDA. Shipments containing 10 parts per billion or greater amounts of carbendazim will be denied entry into the U.S., the FDA said.
Importers will have 90 days to destroy or export the product, the agency said. Once products from a manufacturer have been cleared three times, that company’s products will not longer be stopped or tested “under the current assignment.”
The clampdown is squeezing juice supply chains. About a quarter of the orange juice consumed in the U.S. is imported, and often mixed with domestic juice during production. About 40 percent of U.S. orange juice imports are from Brazil.
Orange juice futures took a rollercoaster ride last week, soaring and then falling on the ICE Futures U.S. Exchange. Orange juice futures for March delivery hit a record high price of $2.1275 Tuesday before dropping to $1.8460 for on Friday.