Federal regulators are still squeezing orange juice imports, stopping shipments at the U.S. border or ports and testing samples for an illegal fungicide.
Since Jan. 4, the Food and Drug Administration has detained or refused 24 shipments found to contain more than 10 parts per billion of carbendazim. Twelve of those shipments of juice or concentrate were from Brazil, the world’s largest orange grower and exporter, and 12 shipments were from Canada.
In total, the FDA has collected samples from 104 shipments. Seventy-one shipments tested negative for carbendazim, and 57 shipments have been released. The FDA rejected a request from Brazilian exporters to test concentrate on a diluted “single strength” basis. The exporters claimed the tests violate trade rules.
“We consider the assertion that FDA’s testing of product as offered for import … poses an international trade issue to be without merit,” the agency said.
The handling of orange juice “has been no different” from FDA’s handling of any food products found to contain unlawful pesticide residues, the agency said. The agency briefly tested samples of domestic orange juice from Florida. Nine out of 14 samples contained from 13 to 36 parts per billion of carbendazim.
Carbendazim concentration levels below 80 ppb are not considered a health threat, according to the FDA, which doesn’t plan to recall any U.S. products. The Brazilian Citrus Exporters Association last month committed to ending use of the chemical, which protects orange groves from black spot fungus.