Orange Peril

Posted on January 11, 2012 by

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The FDA has found more things that can kill you in a product you consume everyday.

In a letter to the juice industry on Monday, the FDA said it had received information from a juice company that the fungicide carbendazim was found in low levels in its own orange juice and in the juice of its competitors. The FDA was tipped off in December and has been conducting its own tests to gauge the extent to which the juice presents danger to consumers.

From USA Today:

Carbendazim is not currently approved for use on citrus in the United States, but is used in Brazil, which exports orange juice to the United States. An FDA spokeswoman said the company’s testing found levels up to 35 parts per billion of the fungicide, far below the European Union’s maximum residue level of 200 parts per billion. The United States has not established a maximum residue level for carbendazim in oranges.

In the letter to the Juice Products Association, FDA official Nega Beru said the agency will begin testing shipments of orange juice at the border and will detain any that contain traces of the chemical. Because it is not approved for use in the United States, any amount found in food is illegal.

 Normally a discovery like this would prompt a widespread recall, a potentially costly endeavor for the companies involved.

 The climate around processed food products like orange juice is in a constant state of limbo. Products as ubiquitous as oranges are expected to be available everywhere – and can be found everywhere from the seediest gas station to online deals sites – while also meeting a rigorous standard for distribution in the States, which complicates things when it comes to international import/export of products from countries that have a different safety rubric.

In light of increased globalization and the economic flux of a world locked in financial turmoil, we are beginning to see a breakdown in the ability for companies to maintain a uniform standard that ensures a high-quality product and move enough products to stay afloat. This fact is underlined by the reaction of the market after the FDA announced its testing.

 From CNN Money:

 March orange juice futures jumped 9.6%, or 20 cents, to $2.0775 a pound on the ICE Futures Exchange, which traders said was the highest level since 1977.

 “My guess is that they will ban Brazilian oranges,” said Tod McElhaney, president of LaSalle Futures Group. “If that happens, you would certainly see a lessening of supplies that could push prices higher.”

Traders said orange juice futures could go even higher if the government moves to block imports from Brazil. But futures could also fall sharply if a Brazilian orange embargo does not materialize.

Though this event has the potential to grow into a debacle for the United States and participatory produce markets, it’s more likely that the scenario will play out with no casualties, literal or otherwise. The fungicide content of the Brazilian oranges is so low that very little danger is present for consumer. However, if the Brazilian oranges are banned, the U.S. will lose that market – a market that makes of 25% of the oranges imported to be used in American orange juice.

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Posted in: Family safety