In a European Commission (EC) statement sent to FoodQualityNews.com, the governing body said that there may be tests conducted on imports of the fruit juice from Brazil using European Union maximum residue levels (EU-MRL).
The EU-MRL for oranges, set at 0.2mg/kg (200 parts per billion), is only applied to import samples from non-EU countries.
The US-MRL stands at 0.01mg/kg (10 parts per billion).
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began sampling orange juice shipments from foreign sources on the 4 January 2012, after a tip-off about levels of carbendazim in the juice.
It has since been revealed that the tip-off came from Minute Maid manufacturer, Coca-Cola.
As of 12 January 2012, 31 shipment samples have been collected – three have “have revealed no measureable carbendazim residue” and 28 are awaiting analysis.
No RASFF record
Carbendazim, which is a fungicide used commonly in agriculture, is not approved for use with orange production in the US or in the European Union (EU).
The fungicide is, however, used extensively in Brazil to combat black spot mould on orange trees.
“Member States will be informed in the next Standing Committee of the US results on carbendazim and might test in a targeted way the orange juice/concentrate imported from Brazil, using the EU-MRL,” the statement said.
“However at this step, the Commission does not recommend to the Member States to increase significantly the tests on this product imported from Brazil.”
“As regards oranges/orange juice from Brazil, we have no record that the EU-MRL notified via the EU Rapid alert system has been exceeded,” it added.
No safety concern
Carbendazim is approved for use in the EU with cereals, rape seed, sugar, fodder beet and maize – but not on oranges.
The EU-MRL, which was reduced from 0.5mg/kg to 0.2kg/mg after a 2009 opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), was set as an import tolerance accounting for use in non-EU countries.
According to the EC statement, this level is “acceptable and would not constitute a risk for EU-consumers.”
“Levels of this fungicide in orange juice are of no concern for consumer safety if they do not exceed the upper legal levels of the pesticide residue (MRL), which have been based on good agricultural practice,” an EFSA spokesperson told FoodQualityNews.com.
All incoming shipments of orange juice products, including powdered products, ready to serve and concentrate, are now being sampled and sent to FDA laboratories, the agency has outlined.
Any shipments containing carbendazim at 10ppb or more will be refused entry to the US, at which point the importer will have 90 days to export or destroy the product.
The FDA has also promised to take “necessary action” to ensure that any product that presents a public health risk due to levels of carbendazim is removed from the market.