Food products contaminated with carbendazim can result in serious consumer illness and sometimes fatal infections among the young and senior population, says Alabama liability attorney Keith T. Belt
Test results released Friday by the Food and Drug Administration found that 11 shipments of orange juice stopped at the U.S. border were positive for carbendazim, a fungicide that is not approved for use in citrus in the United States. FDA has taken samples from 80 shipments of orange juice or orange juice concentrate coming into the United States after the unapproved fungicide was found in Brazilian orange juice this month.
Eleven of the shipments tested positive, meaning each sample contained 10 parts per billion or more of carbendazim with the range being between 52 and 108 parts per billion. Anything over 10 parts per billion is considered contaminated, so nine of the shipments were detained. In the case of the other two, the importing companies decided to withdraw the shipments, which is within their rights, according to the FDA. For the juice that FDA has refused, the importer has 90 days to export or destroy the product.
Five positive samples were from Brazil and six from Canada, which does not produce orange juice commercially, so that juice was presumably shipped there from other nations. The two Canadian companies listed in the FDA records, were Nestle Professional Vitality of Barrie, Ontario, and A. Lassonde Inc. of Rougemont, Quebec.
Twenty-nine of the shipments tested negative for carbendazim and 15 of those shipments had been released into the United States as of Friday, FDA says. Of the negative shipments, 14 were from Mexico, seven from Canada, two from Costa Rica, two from Brazil and one each from Belize, Honduras, Lebanon and Turkey. The two Brazilian shipments are of special interest because it confirms that not all orange juice coming from Brazil is contaminated with the fungicide.
FDA began stopping all orange juice at the U.S. border on Jan. 4, after it was informed that tests by Coca-Cola Co. subsidiary Minute Maid had found low levels of carbendazim in orange juice it was importing from Brazil. The company tested competitors’ products and found carbendazim there as well. Carbendazim is not currently approved for use on citrus in the United States, so its presence at any level is considered illegal, but it is used in Brazil, which exports orange juice to the United States. The fungicide is used to control fungi or fungal spores in agriculture, which aren’t considered a human health threat but affect the fruit’s appearance.
The FDA reported that Coca-Cola found levels of up to 35 parts per billion of the fungicide in the Brazilian orange juice. That’s well below the European Union’s maximum acceptable residue level of 200 parts per billion. However, the United States does not have any established acceptable levels for carbendazim in oranges. Any amount of carbendazim found in food is illegal according to the FDA guidelines.