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Brazil trade body questions carbendazim double standards after US OJ breaches import limit

By Mark Astley, 06-Feb-2012

Related topics: Food safety and labeling, Fruit, vegetable, nut ingredients, Food safety, Markets

A Brazilian orange juice trade body has called for a stop to ‘double standard’ carbendazim measures after US officials declined to take action against US-manufactured orange juice containing the banned fungicide.

Nine samples, taken by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), from domestically manufactured products were found to contain levels of carbendazim between 13ppb and 36ppb – levels at which shipments of orange juice products have been denied entry into the US.

Of the 14 samples collected from Florida-based facilities, only five had no measurable levels of carbendazim (below 10ppb).

All of the domestically collected samples were orignally imported.

A total of 20 shipments, including 11 from Brazil, have now been detained or refused entry to the US after testing positive for carbendazim, according to an FDA update.

The agency has also announced that it believes there is no need to continue domestic testing.

‘No action needed’

CitrusBR spokesperson Christian Lohbauer told FoodQualityNews.com that the decision not to take action against domestically manufactured orange juice products will have an economic impact on the US industry, not only Brazilian exporters.

“An eventual interruption of imports would bring economic impacts and image impacts since the product would be perceived as unsafe when in fact it follows the highest standards of quality and food safety,” he said.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has maintained that any level of carbendazim in orange juice below 80ppb does not pose a health risk.

“Based on these results, FDA has determined that no action is needed to remove product from the market and that the orange juice consumed by the public does not pose safety concerns due to low levels of carbendazim residues found in FDA testing,” said a statement from the FDA.

When considering the raw product entering the country “their view is that the product is not in accordance with American regulations and therefore not allowed to enter the country, although they do not pose health concerns when considering the final product that will be sold to consumers after dilution,” Lohbauer added.

“It means that FDA analyses health issues when considering the final product, and legal issues when considering the imported products (raw material). In spite of that, we believe that the message sent to American consumers might be confusing, since they understand that the restrictions to imports are also linked to health concerns, and not only to legal concerns.”

Brazilian shipments

To date, the FDA has collected samples from 86 shipments of orange juice or orange juice concentrate, of which 46 have so far tested negative for carbendazim.

The FDA has now found a total of 20 samples, each representing one shipment, which tested positive for the unapproved fungicide.

All of the 20 positive samples, nine of which were from Canada and 11 were from Brazil, have been detained or refused entry to the US.

The remaining 20 samples are pending analysis.

Article amendedment: All of the domestically collected samples were orignally imported.