The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will soon release three shipments of orange juice imports from Canada, the first supplies to enter the country since the FDA began testing on Jan. 4 for fungicide levels of carbendazim and banning all imports of foreign orange juice because of fears of carbendazim traces found in oranges, especially those from Brazil.

Carbendazim

Carbendazim in particular is used to control mold, spot, mildew, scorch, rot and blight in cereals and fruit, including citrus, currants, strawberries, bananas, pineapples, mangoes and avocados. (Reuters/Paulo Whitaker)

Reports say that the import ban would last until the FDA has finished conducting a thorough investigation of carbendazim levels.The ban came just one day after it was revealed that the FDA would increase its testing for carbendazim after an unnamed juice company found it in low levels back on Dec. 28, according to Bloomberg News. Reports on Thursday, though, revealed the unnamed company to be Coca-Cola, which manufactures Minute Maid and Simply Orange juices. Coca-Cola wrote a letter to the FDA, saying that it detected 35 parts per billion of the fungicide in its own orange juice as well as competitors' juice.

That level is far below the European Union's maximum residue level of 200 parts per billion. In other words, the level isn't high enough to deem Coca-Cola's orange juice unsafe. However, Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman who spoke with Bloomberg, said that because of the health issues the fungicide poses, imported orange juice that tests at carbendazim concentrations of even 10 parts per billion or higher will either be refused or destroyed.

So what exactly is carbendazim and why has it been such cause for concern? Here's a quick rundown:

  • Fungicides are used to control fungi or fungal spores in agriculture, according to the Huffington Post. Carbendazim in particular is used to control mold, spot, mildew, scorch, rot and blight in cereals and fruit, including citrus, currants, strawberries, bananas, pineapples, mangoes and avocados.
  • As recently as 2008, carbendazim was used to kill black fungus on Florida orange. However, once studies linked it to increased rates of cancers and infertility, an outright ban of its use on American oranges was soon enacted.
  • Carbendazim is still legal in Brazil, and the European Union allows foods to contain up to 200 parts per billion of the fungicide.
  • Carbendazim has been used in Brazil for more than 20 years and is not considered harmful in doses that are even 100 times larger than what has been found in the United States, according to Foxnews.com

Much of the orange juice consumed in the U.S. is produced from domestic oranges, though Bloomberg reports that Brazil produces almost one in every six glasses of orange juice consumed, according to CitrusBR, an export industry association.

Foxnews.com reports that Canada makes up less than 1 percent of U.S. imports. The FDA's preliminary findings showed that the three shipments from Canada did not contain carbendazim, and, as a result, it will release the shipments into the U.S. market as soon as the results are finalized.

The FDA also said that more testing results could be released at the end of the week, which offers hope for a quick resolution to the scare.

We've got 30 more samples pending, and those come from Canada, Mexico and Brazil, said DeLancey, adding that the testing takes about 5 to 10 business days. I'm not sure what is where in the pipeline.

If you don't trust carbendazim, here are some major brand orange juices you should stay away from:

  • Minute Maid (mix of Florida and Brazilian oranges)
  • Tropicana (mix of Florida and Brazilian oranges)
  • America's Choice (mix of Florida and Brazilian oranges)
  • Tree Ripe (mix of Florida and Brazilian oranges)