The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declined a request from Brazilian export association CitrusBR to temporarily allow a higher tolerance of the banned fungicide carbendazim in juice imports.

In a letter published late last week, the FDA outlined its objections to a request by the trade body for a reassessment of the current measures. CitrusBR approached the FDA to set June 2013 as the deadline to remove carbendazim from its juice after the agency began inspecting orange juice imports earlier this year.

To date, around two-thirds of orange juice samples have tested negative for the banned fungicide carbendazim, according to the FDA. It has collected samples from 104 shipments of orange juice or orange juice concentrate into the US. Of these, 71 have tested negative for carbendazim, while 57 shipments have been released. The FDA found 24 samples that tested positive, meaning that each sample contained 10 parts per 1bn or more of carbendazim.

The request from CitrusBR was based on the fact that the orange juice concentrate will be diluted to single strength prior to consumption.

However, the FDA declined the request and said it will continue to test orange juice concentrate, orange juice from concentrate, and not from concentrate orange juice shipments offered for import.

“To the extent FDA finds quantifiable residues of carbendazim, such shipments are subject to FDA detention and refusal,” it said. “FDA’s handling of orange juice shipments has been no different from FDA’s handling of any food products found to contain unlawful pesticide chemical residues. The detentions, refusals ... taking place are all routine actions and have been part of FDA’s process for decades.”

The FDA also dismissed claims by the Brazilian trade organisation that the current measures could be in violation of international trade agreements.

“The fact that the agency decides to prevent food products, such as orange juice, that contain residues of unauthorised pesticides from entering US commerce is not inconsistent with US WTO obligations,” the FDA said. 

“The assertion made by CitrusBR during the 26 January meeting that there is some misunderstanding on the part of Brazilian citrus growers concerning the application of US pesticide tolerance requirements does not and should not bear upon FDA’s enforcement of the FFD&C Act requirements. We consider the assertion that FDA’s testing of product as offered for import, whether concentrate or single strength, poses an international trade issue to be without merit.”

To read the FDA's letter, click here.