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Food Safety

Fungicide blocked in O.J. found in many foods

ked in O.J. found in many foods

By SUSAN SALISBURY

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 8:02 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, 2012

Posted: 7:50 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, 2012

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began testing orange juice imports this week for the fungicide carbendazim, thousands of other food items containing the fungicide are in the marketplace.

The fungicide, not allowed in orange juice, is permitted in 31 food commodities from almonds to wheat. That’s because although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not set maximum residue levels for carbendazim in orange juice. It has established standards for it in the other products, including apples and cherries.

Orange juice from Brazil and other countries is being scrutinized after Minute Maid reported finding carbendazim in its orange juice and that of competitors. Minute Maid and Tropicana blend orange juice from Florida and Brazil in their products. Brazilian growers use the fungicide to combat black spot on oranges.

Carbendazim isn’t permitted for use on U.S. farms, but a related pesticide known as thiophanate-methyl, or TPM, which is allowed, breaks down into carbendazim. Simply put, carbendazim is sneaking in through application of TPM.

Benjamin England, former FDA Regulatory Counsel and founder of FDAImports.com, a consulting firm in Columbia, Md., said the crackdown on orange juice highlights how the FDA and EPA regulate pesticides in foods.

While the FDA plans to reject orange juice with more than a trace amount of the fungicide, it permits it in apples, apricots and bananas with thousands of times more of the same substance because it has established the tolerances, England said.

England predicts that the FDA will test for the fungicide in other fresh and finished fruit and vegetable products.

Sonya Lunder, a senior scientist with the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, said Friday, “This is just another reason consumers concerned about pesticides and fungicides in their food and beverages may want to consider spending a bit more for the organic version.”

The consumer interest watchdog annually ranks conventionally grown fruits and vegetables based on pesticide residues detected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The fact that Minute Maid, and not the FDA detected the chemical and sounded the alarm is yet one more example that this feckless federal agency in charge of food safety inspection is woefully underfunded and understaffed,” Lunder said.

Patty Lovera, assistant director of Washington-based Food & Water Watch, said consumers have more control over U.S. products because they can take action such as complaining to legislators.

“There are a lot of gaps in this system. Some are enforcement gaps, and some are structure gaps,” Lovera said. “There is a whole world of substances, pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics used in producing foods. We don’t have a real great system for looking at them, even for domestic. It gets even worse for imports.”


Some crops with carbendazim

The fungicide carbendazim is not permitted for use on U.S. crops including oranges. However, a related fungicide, which breaks down into carbendazim, is allowed in foods including these:

  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Canola seed
  • Cherries
  • Grain
  • Grape
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Peanuts
  • Pears
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Plums
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Soybeans
  • Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Wheat

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Fungicide blocked in O.J. found in many foods.

About GourmetPICS

Robin Phillips is formally trained as a chef and she has professional experience in both culinary and law. She is a self-syndicated columnist and she owns several businesses. Her most recent work for Fortune 500 companies has included sales training, recipe testing/development and culinary event planning. Being a wife and mother, Robin is passionate about healthy cooking, happy households and loving families. You may reach her at Robin@GourmetPICS.com anytime.

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