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FDA to increase testing after carbendazim found in orange juice

By Mark Astley , 10-Jan-2012

US food safety authorities have promised to take “necessary action” against levels of fungicide carbendazim in orange juice after being alerted to its presence in the beverage.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has vowed to the Juice Products Association to step-up its testing efforts, after learning that low levels of the fungicide had been found in marketed finished products.

Carbendazim is a fungicide – a chemical compound or biological organism used to kill fungi or fungal spores that can cause serious damage in agriculture.

Many fungicides, which are, are approved for use – including carbendazim.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not approved the fungicide for use with oranges.

No safety concerns

The matter was brought to the FDA’s attention by an unnamed juice company in December 2011.

The firm found levels of carbendazim in its own juice, its competitors’, and in certain orange juice concentrates not on the market.

The agency announced in a letter published on its website that it would be conducting its own tests to identify juice that poses a public health risk.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has conducted a preliminary risk assessment based on the recent reports of carbendazim in orange juice,” said the statement signed by FDA official Nega Beru.

“Based on that risk assessment, EPA has concluded that consumption of orange juice with carbendazim at the low levels that have been reported does not raise safety concerns.”

“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.”

The letter added, however, that the FDA doesn’t intend to remove orange juice containing the low levels of carbendazim from the market.

Legally combat mould

The agency believes the levels originate from a 2011 orange crop from Brazil - where fungicide is used to legally to combat mould – and has urged processors to inform it of any plans they may have to stop suppliers using the pesticide.

The latest fruit juice contamination concern comes only months after the FDA published a similar letter in relation to arsenic levels in apple.

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