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The Salt
12:02 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

FDA Cuts Off Orange Juice Imports Over Safety Concerns

When you think of your orange juice in its infancy, you probably envision neat rows of leafy green citrus trees in Florida or California — Tropicana and other companies' have helped seal that image in our minds.

But the reality is that a lot of our orange juice comes from Brazil — about 14 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Now the safety of those imports is in question, prompting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to hold back all orange juice imports from overseas, Bloomberg reports.

Why all the fuss? Last month, low levels of a fungicide, called carbendazim, were found in orange juice products that contained juice imported from Brazil. The chemical is approved for use in Brazil but not in the U.S.

This week, the FDA apparently decided this was pretty serious. In a letter to the Juice Products Association, the FDA said it is sampling import shipments of orange juice and will deny entry to shipments that test positive for carbendazim.

"We have initiated testing of orange juice both at ports of entry and in the United States," Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for food, told ABC News via email today. "Very preliminary results show levels well below the level of any safety concern."

This also means we're likely to see higher orange juice prices quite soon. According to Reuters, U.S. orange juice futures jumped almost 11 percent to an all-time high on Tuesday, and juice industry analysts say they will likely keep climbing.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.