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Orange juice price spikes after carbendazim scare

By Mark Astley , 12-Jan-2012

The price of orange juice futures hit a 34-year high, after news that US food safety authorities would block imports of the fruit containing even low-levels of carbendazim – a fungicide commonly used in Brazil.

The price spike came after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vowed to increase testing on oranges for carbendazim, and block entry to any shipment that tested positive for the fungicide.

The vow, which came in a letter published on the FDA website, led to an increase in the price of FCOJ (Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice) on the ICE Futures US Exchange.

The commodity rose by nearly 10% at one point to $2.1275 per pound - its highest price since November 1977. The futures price has since returned to normal levels.

EU restrictions

Carbendazim is commonly used in Brazilian orange production as a fungicide to combat black spot – a type of mould that grows on trees.

However, the use of carbendazim in the production of oranges has not been approved in the US.

In Europe, the use of carbendazim is only allowed in the production of cereals, rape seeds, sugar and fodder beet and maize, a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) spokesperson told FoodQualityNews.com.

“The MRL level on a number of crops such as oranges was reduced from 0.5mg/kg to 0.2mg/kg following a reasoned opinion from EFSA in 2009.”

Decisions on the restricted import of oranges containing carbendazim would be in the hands of the European Commission (EC) individual Member States, the spokesperson added.

“Will deny entry”

In the letter dated 9 January 2011, to the Juice Products Association, the FDA promised to take “necessary action” to ensure public safety in relation to the fungicide.

“FDA is also sampling import shipments of orange juice and will deny entry to shipments that test positive for carbendazim,” said the letter.

The letter was sent after the FDA received concerns from an unnamed orange juice company that it found carbendazim in its own marketed juice, its competitors’, and in orange juice concentrates that were yet to reach the market.

It said in the letter that it has no intention of removing domestic commerce orange juice containing the reported low levels of carbendazim, but would block imports of the fruit containing carbendazim.

“FDA does not intend to take action to remove from domestic commerce orange juice containing the reported low levels of carbendazim,” said the letter.

“FDA is, however, conducting its own testing of orange juice for carbendazim, and, if 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.”

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