In the middle of July, the FDA ignited a firestorm in the normally placid orange juice industry when it announced that it would halt imports of foreign OJ due to possible contamination by carbendazim, a widely used fungicide that's been banned for use on oranges in the U.S. since 2009. It quickly became clear that the FDA did not consider the fungicide levels an imminent threat, calming some fears, and orange juice from Canada was approved for entry almost immediately. But the testing continued.
A big batch of fungicide test results came in at the end of last week. It seems as thought the state of affairs could be worse. Of the 40 samples that have been tested so far, 29 came back negative for carbendazim. That leaves 11 samples that came back positive.
Six out of the 11 were sourced from Canada, and the rest were from Brazil, though Food Safety News noted that most of the OJ imported from Canada is actually originally from Brazil. (You can't grow oranges in Canada's frosty climate.) The good news is that even the positive tests indicated that fungicide levels are not high enough to cause harm to human health.
FDA spokesperson Siobhan Delancey explained the fate of the positive samples in an email to the Huffington Post:
We tested 11 samples (one sample per shipment) but two of those (Citri Agroindustrial and Sucocitro Cutrale) withdrew their shipments and took them back. The other nine shipments are in detention, and the companies have 90 days to either arrange for shipping back or for destruction. If they choose to make arrangements for destruction, FDA witnesses it to ensure it was done.
Now that those companies are on import alert, any shipments will be "detained without physical examination," meaning that they go into detention automatically, until they can demonstrate that they are in compliance with our regulations (i.e, no carbendazim).
That said, the FDA has no plans to recall any orange juice that's already made it to store shelves. It will only do so if it finds a sample with at least 80 parts per billion of the fungicide. So far, the highest concentration discovered has been 52 parts per billion.
The next major round of test results will be released on this Friday, February 3rd.
Until then, below is the list of all companies whose orange juice has tested positive. Several of these companies had more than one sample test positive, though we repeat that none of the juice has been found to contain dangerous levels of the fungicide:
- Citri Agroindustrial S/A (Brazil)
- Sucocitrico Cutrale LTDA (Brazil)
- A. Lassonde Inc. (Canada)
- Nestle Professional Vitality (Canada)
- Sun Pac Foods Ltd (Canada)
- Super Pufft (Canada)