The Brazilian orange juice and concentrate industry has admitted carbendazim-related defeat, after efforts to increase allowable levels of the fungicide in orange juice product shipments were shot down by US food safety officials.
Trade association CitrusBR, which represents Brazilian citrus exporters, told FoodProductionDaily.com that it has chosen to instead phase out the use of the unapproved fungicide and adapt its practices to meet US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.
The statement followed the publication of a letter from the FDA to CitrusBR, which outlined the agency’s objections to a request by the trade body for a reassessment of the current measures.
Currently, samples are taken from any shipment of orange juice or concentrate attempting to enter the US. Any consignment found to contain measureable levels of carbendazim (10ppb) is detained or refused entry to the US.
To-date, a total of 24 shipments have tested positive - including 12 from Brazil where carbendazim is commonly used to combat black spot mould.
Disappointed by decision
“Yes [we are disappointed by the FDA decision], our intention was not to change the US laws or question their authorities. As they said, it was not a public health issue; therefore our product did not present health risks for consumers. We understand the problems were merely legal, but for the consumers the message might be confusing,” said CitursBR executive president Christian Lohbauer.
In an email sent to the FDA in January, CitrusBR requested a revision of the measures, based on the fact that orange juice concentrate – which accounted for the majority of positive results – is diluted prior to consumption.
It also cited an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) risk assessment, which determined that levels of carbendazim up to 80ppb do not pose a health risk.
“In view of their recent decisions, our companies have opted for adapting to this situation until we are able to supply the American market with carbendazim-free orange juice. Since the beginning of the issue, we started a phasing-out plan which is being carried out,” said Lohbauer.
“It affects our business and the whole orange juice chain, including the American part of it. The sector has been suffering with the demand decline in the last years, and the situation may now be worse.”
CitrusBR added that it will not re-approach the FDA concerning allowable levels of carbendazim in orange juice and concentrate.
“No [we will not be approaching the FDA again]. As I mentioned, we decided to adapt to the situation and try to supply the US market with carbendazim-free OJ as soon as possible,” he added.
US industry backlash
The FDA decision not to adjust the current measures was also met with disappointment from US orange juice manufacture trade body the Juice Products Association (JPA).
“We are disappointed that the FDA will not evaluate imports on an ‘as consumed’ basis which is a more logical and practical way to assume safety for the consumer,” said a JPA statement.
“Individuals do not consume orange juice concentrate and therefore, JPA has called upon the FDA to use its enforcement discretion to calculate carbendazim presence in juice on an ‘as consumed’ basis.”
The FDA defended the measures currently in place, telling FoodProductionDaily.com that it has an “obligation” to protect the integrity of its food safety system.