MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Consumers may be looking at an increase in the price of orange juice after the Food and Drug Administration said it would stop all shipments of foreign orange juice at the border, and turn back any who test positive for the fungicide Carbendazim.
Carbendazim, which is used in some orange producing countries like Brazil but which is not approved for use in the United States, is not considered to be a health risk if consumed in the quantities generally found in juice. However, the fact the fungicide is not allowed in foods consumed in the US has placed US officials on alert.
The ban could have an effect on juice production in Florida, the largest producer of orange juice, fresh or frozen, in the US.
While the majority of Florida’s huge orange crop is used for juice, many consumers don’t know that the state’s crop has been unable to meet the demand for orange juice for years. While some producers use only Florida oranges in their product, many major brands blend-in juice from other countries, most often Brazil, to meet demand and keep prices lower.
If the US starts rejecting shipments because they test positive for fungicide, that could have an effect production within Florida, and that in turn could both tighten the supply and raise prices.
In a letter to the juice industry Monday, the FDA said that an unnamed juice company contacted it in late December and said it had detected low levels of the carbendazim in the company’s own orange juice and also in its competitors’ juice.
An FDA spokeswoman said the company’s testing found levels up to 35 parts per billion of the fungicide, far below the European Union’s maximum residue level of 200 parts per billion. The United States has not established a maximum residue level for carbendazim in oranges, because the substance is not legal in the US.
While it is possible some product on the shelves now may have juice which contains the fungicide, no recall has been ordered and the juice can still be sold. However, consumers concerned about the fungicide can check labels; blended juices will generally list the country of origin or simply say the product contains “orange juice”, while juice made entirely from Florida oranges is usually labeled “Juice from Florida”.