Coca-Cola, which manufactures both the Simply Orange and Minute Maid brands of orange juice, has reported to federal regulators that the company has detected low levels of the fungicide carbendazim in its juice and in an unnamed competitors' juice. The fungicide, which is illegal for use on food in the United States, is widely used against mold on orange trees in Brazil, which exports orange juice to many U.S. companies.
"This is an industry issue that affects every company that produces products in the U.S. using orange juice from Brazil," said Coca-Cola spokesman Dan Schafer.
The FDA said Coca-Cola found levels up to 35 parts per billion of the fungicide, far below the European Union's maximum residue level of 200 parts per billion. The U.S. government has not established a maximum residue level for carbendazim in orange juice, though the Environmental Protection Agency has said a risk assessment showed no risks of concern at up to 80 parts per billion.
Most orange juice products made by Coke and other companies contain a blend of juice from different sources including Brazil. In addition to Coca-Cola, Pepsico Inc.'s Tropicana brand is one of the largest U.S. orange juice producers. A spokesman for Tropicana declined to say whether the company had done its own testing for the fungicide.
The FDA told MSNBC that it has not detected carbendazim levels higher than 10 parts per billion--if they had, a recall would be in effect. The agency said it urges the industry to stop using the fungicide, and that any discovery of higher levels will prompt a recall.
Image: Orange juice, via Shutterstock.