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U.S. detains Brazil, Canada orange juice for fungicide

By Anna Yukhananov | Reuters Fri, Jan 27, 2012

(Reuters) - U.S. health regulators detained three shipments of Brazilian orange juice and six from Canada that tested positive for the fungicide carbendazim, which is illegal in the United States.

Two other Brazilian juice shipments tested positive for the fungicide, but the companies decided not to import the juice into the country, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Friday.

Orange juice futures climbed almost 3 percent in reaction to the FDA testing results, which had been widely expected.

But the futures remained below a record high hit on Monday, after traders fretted that regulators may ban all orange juice from top grower Brazil, which supplies half of U.S. imports.

The FDA said 29 of the 80 orange juice samples it had taken since testing began on January 4 were safe, including two from Brazil and seven from Canada.

Canada does not grow its own oranges, but may process juice from other countries. The nation makes up less than 1 percent of U.S. imports.

The fungicide scare flared two weeks ago after the FDA announced that a company - later identified as Coca-Cola Co - had reported finding carbendazim in juice samples from Brazil.

Growers in Brazil widely use carbendazim to combat blossom blights and black spot, a mold that grows on orange trees.

The fungicide is illegal on citrus in the United States, although it does not pose a safety risk, the FDA said.

The FDA said it would begin testing imports for the fungicide and reject shipments that were above the legal limit.

Shipments that have more than 10 parts per billion (ppb) of the fungicide will be detained, and the importers will have 90 days to export or destroy the product, the agency said.

The FDA said it would test all shipments twice, and detain any that tested positive for carbendazim at least once.

Of the six shipments detained from Canada, none had levels of fungicide higher than 31 ppb, and most were below 20 ppb. The Brazilian shipments that tested positive had carbendazim levels between 20 ppb and 52 ppb.

All the levels of carbendazim found so far have been below the legal limit in the European Union, which allows juice imports with up to 200 ppb.

In the United States, trace amounts of the fungicide are still allowed in 31 food types including grains, nuts and some non-citrus fruits. It has been banned from U.S. citrus juice since 2009.

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov in Washington; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Marguerita Choy and Dale Hudson)


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