FDA takes stand for public health, resists industry pressures to increase allowable levels of toxic fungicide carbendazim in orange juice product imports

Thursday, February 23, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: FDA, fungicide, orange juice

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(NaturalNews) In an unusual turn of events, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has actually decided to aggressively protect public health rather than shield corporate profits by denying a recent request made by the Juice Products Association (JPA), a juice industry trade group, to increase the maximum allowable level of carbendazim, an illegal fungicide linked to testicular damage and infertility, in imported orange juice products.

Earlier this year, several major food conglomerates including PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola Company discovered trace levels of carbendazim in some of their orange juice products, which prompted an FDA investigation. During this time, the FDA has been rejecting all imports of orange juice and orange juice concentrates containing ten parts per billion (ppb) or more of carbendazim, a move that has greatly upset the juice industry.

Since consumers do not directly consume orange juice concentrate, which is where much of the contamination was discovered, the juice industry argues that the ten ppb maximum is too low, and that the chemical is not harmful to humans at this level. The industry has also cited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's maximum allowable limit for carbendazim of 80 ppb as leverage to try to sway the FDA into reevaluating juice products on an "as consumed" basis.

But rather than cave to these industry pressures like it usually does with Big Pharma, the FDA has stood its ground in defense of public health, insisting that it has an obligation to protect the integrity of its food safety program. Since carbendazim is illegal in the U.S. to begin with, the FDA is technically already doing the juice industry an unjust favor by allowing any level of carbendazim contamination in juice products.

"[The] FDA has an obligation to protect the integrity of the system designed to protect the public from illegal pesticide residues in food," wrote the agency in a response to industry complaints about its decision. "Further, it is the responsibility of those importing foods into the U.S. to comply with these requirements."

Because of the FDA's strict stance on this issue, imports of orange juice concentrate from Brazil, the world's top orange juice exporter, have virtually ceased to the U.S. because they well-exceed the ten ppm maximum allowable level for carbendazim.

Carbendazim which, again, is illegal in the U.S., is linked to causing hormone disruption, reproductive disorders, cell and DNA damage, and cancer. Friends of the Earth, an environmental group, lists carbendazim as one of its "filthy four" pesticides, along with lindane, vinclozalin, and aldicarb.

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