Banned chemical found in imported orange juice

SEATTLE -- A potentially harmful chemical that's banned by the Food and Drug Administration is showing up in imported orange juice, but experts say there's no reason to panic.

The chemical, called carbendazim, is a fungicide that's not allowed in the United States because it has been shown to cause birth defects and reproductive problems.

"The FDA received a report from an orange juice manufacturer that carbendazim, which is a particular fungicide used in several other countries, was found in their orange juice and the orange juice of one of their competitors," said Dr. Richard Besser.

Government inspectors are now stationed at ports in Florida and California doing tests.

Because 26 percent of the orange juice sold in the United States comes from Mexico and Brazil, it's easy to understand how a name like carbendazim could make people nervous.

But Besser said juice drinkers shouldn't panic, because the level of carbendazim found in orange juice isn't harmful.

"It would not be possible to drink enough orange juice for it to cause a problem," he said.

While you likely won't feel any ill effects from the carbendazim, Besser said there's still reason for concern.

"Well, I don't think it's much ado about nothing, and here's the reason: The EPA sets tolerance levels for what should come into the country, and those need to be respected because there are different levels, and some are quite harmful. So the fact that this came into the country, and wasn't detected, is a big problem in my mind," Besser said.

Hardly any of the imported products in question come through the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. And even if you only drink orange juice from the U.S., you could still be ingesting the chemical because many companies mix their American juice with foreign juices.