What’s In Your Orange Juice?

By: Kelli Hagan, Senior Staff Member
Recently, a U.S. policy has ordered a holding on imported orange juice while samples are tested for a banned fungicide.  Traces of carbendazim, a fungicide that is banned in the U.S. but still used in Brazil, have been found in orange juice imported from Brazil.  Carbendazim has been linked to liver tumors in animals.  Brazilian producers use the chemical to combat a fungus that discolors the outside of oranges and causes trees to drop their fruit prematurely.[1]  The scare started after the maker of Minute Maid juice, Coca-Cola Co., warned that tests found low levels of carbendazim in juice shipments from Brazil, a major exporter. The amounts were well below levels that would cause a health concern, Coca-Cola said, but federal regulators started testing imports.[2]   Some say the U.S. holding period could last up to six months.
How will this affect the American consumer?  Many are predicting that already high prices for orange juice in the store will likely jump further in coming weeks as markets react to potential chemical contamination in the juice.  About 55 million gallons of orange juice consumed in the U.S. per year comes from Brazil, so a cut in imports from there is expected to boost wholesale prices that already are up 20 percent from last year.[3]  However, local orange growers say the chemical scare is changing the way people buy juice – and it's boosting their profits.[4]  As people are becoming more concerned with what they are consuming this could boost local orange growers’ profits.  So maybe the orange juice scare is not so bad after all?  This may continue to book the ever-growing trend of consumers preferring to buy local.  
[1] Stephanie Armour et.al. Testing of Orange Juice For Fungicide May Continue Through July, Bloomberg (January 17, 2012), http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-01-18/testing-of-orange-juice-for-fungicide-may-continue-through-july.html.
[2] Id.
[3] Richard Mullins, Orange Juice Prices Expected to Jump, The Tampa Tribune. (January 18, 2012), http://www2.tbo.com/news/business/2012/jan/18/1/mebizo1-orange-juice-prices-expected-to-jump-ar-348545/.
[4] Josh Salman, Orange Juice Scare Might Promote Business for Florida Growers, Bradenton Herald (January 13, 2012), http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/13/4185575/orange-juice-scare-might-promote.html.