The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is looking into banning all orange juice imports from Brazil after an illegal fungicide was found in a sample, Reuters reports. Brazil is the world's top grower of oranges for juice, accounting for more than 10% of the U.S. supply. About half of the orange juice imported into the U.S. comes from the South American country.
The pesticide, carbendazim, is banned in U.S. citrus but is used on orange trees in Brazil to fight mold. According to the agency, a U.S. juice producer detected low levels of carbendazim in orange juice concentrate imported from Brazil. The FDA said low levels of carbendazim were not dangerous and the agency had no plans for a recall. However, the agency said it would stop any shipments of orange juice at the border that test positive for the fungicide.
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Orange juice futures jumped almost 11 percent to an all-time high based on the news, which was announced by the FDA in a letter to the Juice Products Association on Monday. It was not immediately clear whether there would be a related increase in orange juice prices for consumers, which will depend in part on whether the FDA's action results in a shortage of orange juice shipments into the United States. Brands such as Tropicana and Minute Maid may use a mix of juices sourced from Brazil and the U.S. The agency is testing orange juice shipments from all countries, not just Brazil.
According to Reuters, the U.S. allows trace amounts of carbendazim in 31 food types, including grains, nuts and some non-citrus fruits. Carbendazim was approved for citrus in Florida from 2002 to 2008, but alternatives subsequently became available.
Carbendazim is currently only approved in the United States as a fungicide to treat non-food items such as paints, textiles and ornamental trees. Kathryn Gilje, co-director of the Pesticide Action Network, told Reuters that the fungicide is a possible carcinogen and can disrupt human hormone systems even at low levels of exposure. It has been completely banned in Australia since 2010.
Follow Samantha Bonar @samanthabonar.