FDA: Orange juice from Brazil is safe but still illegal
The Food and Drug Administration is one of those departments that will be virtually impossible to ever remove. After all, they’re supposedly responsible for keeping our food supply safe. History tells us that prior to the FDA, food companies were putting all kinds of dangerous crap in foods and drinks…hence the FDA sprang into existence.
However, things are getting kind of silly when it comes to orange juice from Brazil. You see, down there, they use a fungicide called carbendazim. Carbendazim isn’t used here anymore, so no one has bothered to write a regulation on tolerances for the chemical. As such, Brazilian frozen, concentrated orange juice is currently illegal since it has traces of a chemical that we just don’t use anymore.
Obviously, this is because carbendazim is unsafe in any dosage, right? Wrong.
If you happen to notice sometime later this year that you’re suddenly paying a lot more for orange juice, you can blame America’s food safety authorities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, after several weeks of deliberation, has blocked imports of frozen, concentrated orange juice from Brazil, probably for the next 18 months or so, even though the agency says the juice is perfectly safe.
The FDA’s explanation is that its hands are legally tied. Its tests show that practically all concentrated juice from Brazil currently contains traces of the fungicide carbendazim, first detected in December by Coca-Cola, maker of Minute Maid juices. The amounts are small — so small that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says no consumers should be concerned.
The problem is, carbendazim has not been used on oranges in the U.S. in recent years, and the legal permission to use it on that crop has lapsed. As a result, there’s not a legal “tolerance” for residues of this pesticide in orange products.
So, according to the FDA, any speck of this fungicide, if found in orange juice, is an illegal adulterant and won’t be allowed, even though residues of the same fungicide are allowed in many other foods, including apple and grape juice.
Now, I’m willing to accept a whole lot of arguments for a whole lot of things, but really? I mean…really? If the carbendazim had been determined to be unsafe, there might be a point. However, the EPA and FDA both agree that the levels are perfectly safe…but they’re still illegal. No good reason for them to be illegal, but they are anyways.
To make matters worse, it’s entirely possible that the carbendazim wasn’t even sprayed on the oranges in the first place. FDAImports.com has this little graphic that explains that the carbendazim may well be overspray from the ground. Not only that, but it may have actually been another chemical that is legal for use on the oranges, but apparently breaks down into carbendazim. Um…oops?
Obviously, U.S. based orange farmers are probably pretty happy with the news but consumers should be particularly alarmed. Orange crops require a certain amount of frost each year and as someone who lives just to the north of orange country, I don’t think they’re going to get it this year. That means fewer oranges total so, when taken in conjunction with the import ban for no good reason, and we may have a situation where orange juice prices skyrocket. And for what?
Oh yeah, nothing.