The U.S. Food and Drug Administration declined a request from Brazil, the biggest orange juice producer, to temporarily allow more of a banned fungicide in juice imports.
The U.S., the biggest single importer of orange juice, started testing shipments for the fungicide carbendazim, which is banned in U.S. groves, after regulators were alerted to reported traces of the chemical in December.
Orange juice imports from Brazil will remain subject to testing the FDA said in a letter e-mailed yesterday, in which it denied a request on behalf of the Brazilian Citrus Exporters Association to allow higher tolerances of the fungicide through June 2013 while exporters eliminate it from shipments.
“Without enforcement, we could not ensure that the food supply is protected,” Michael Landa, director at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in the letter to Melvin Drozen, a partner at Keller and Heckman LLP in Washington, acting for the Brazilian association.
“If our enforcement is not consistent, it would provide an unfair advantage to those who have not taken the steps and incurred the expenses necessary to ensure that food they offer for sale in the U.S. complies with the requirements of the law,” Landa wrote.
The FDA has found 24 orange juice samples, 12 from Brazil and 12 from Canada, with carbendazim levels higher than the 10 parts per billion allowed from the 104 shipments it tested, according to a weekly update from the agency yesterday.
While the FDA recognizes the economic impact on orange juice prices, it won’t halt testing or detainment of imports, Landa said in the letter. Americans’ orange juice consumption may total 751,259 metric tons in 2011-12, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show.
Orange juice on ICE Futures U.S. in New York gained 9.5 percent to $1.8505 a pound this year after the FDA said it would test all imports for the fungicide used to treat a disease known as black spot that affects orange trees. The price reached a record $2.2695 a pound on Jan. 23.
Brazil industry group Fund for Citrus Plant Protection, known as Fundecitrus, said on Feb. 6 it would stop using carbendazim, which is banned on orange groves in the U.S.
Brazil will have no claim with the World Trade Organization as suggested in the growers’ request because the testing is within U.S. requirements to the WTO, Landa wrote in the letter.
“The fact that the agency decides to prevent food products, such as orange juice, that contain residues of unauthorized pesticides from entering U.S. commerce is not inconsistent with U.S. WTO obligation,” Landa said.