Carbendazim is a fungicide used in many countries to control fungal diseases in some crops including fruit trees.
Concerns were raised in Australia after reports from the United States (US) that authorities had suspended some imports after trace amounts of carbendazim were found in orange juice imported from Brazil.
The levels detected in orange juice and orange juice concentrate in the US were well below the internationally accepted level for carbendazim permitted in oranges. The levels were also significantly below the US human health and safety level. Even though the levels detected were very low and considered safe, the US tested all shipments for carbendazim because the chemical isn’t allowed to be used on orange crops in the US.
What’s happening in Australia?
Some agricultural production uses of carbendazim, including use on all citrus fruits, were suspended by the APVMA in January 2010. The APVMA has since completed a review of the use of carbendazim and has removed additional uses.
FSANZ considers changes to the maximum residue limit (MRL) for carbendazim in Standard 1.4.2 of the Food Standards Code through our MRL Proposal process. These include MRLs gazetted by the APVMA for carbendazim and MRLs requested by other parties, to align the Code with Codex (the body that develops international standards) or trading partenr standards. In Proposal M1008, the MRL for carbendazim residues in citrus fruits, including oranges, was significantly reduced.
Consumers shouldn’t be concerned about drinking orange juice as our exposure to carbendazim through consuming oranges and citrus juices is extremely low.
The latest Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS) indicates that even for high consumers of oranges and citrus juices, exposure to carbendazim is only likely to be around one per cent of the acute reference dose – the amount that can be safely consumed on a single day. At the levels of carbendazim found in the ATDS:
- The average four year old child would have to drink more than 40 litres of orange juice in a single day to go over the safe level.
- A 70 kg adult would have to drink around 150 litres of orange juice in a day before going over the safe level.
Chemicals in food - maximum residue limits
APVMA – carbendazim review
US FDA – testing orange juice imports
See this blog from the US Food and Drug Administration for more background information.