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Greater scrutiny needed for juice imports; fungicide found in Brazilian imports

The discovery of a banned fungicide in Brazilian orange juice that can cause infertility and testicular damage has led Australian citrus growers to demand tougher regulations on imports.

The industry’s peak representative group, Citrus Australia, says it is up to the government to improve testing procedures on imported citrus juices to ensure the fungicide, carbendazim, is not present in any juices available locally.

The discovery of the chemical was discovered when a juice manufacturer in the Unites States raised the flag with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Citrus Australia chief executive Judith Damiana said more than 300,000 tonnes of oranges are imported to Australia every year in the form of cheap Brazilian orange juice concentrate.

“We call on the Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service (DAFF) to immediately increase testing of all imported citrus juice for chemicals banned in Australia,” Damiana said.

The use of carbendazim has been suspended by the Australian Pesticides and Vetinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) since 2010 while the health impacts are investigated.

The US has suspended all foreign juice imports since January 4, and experts are urging the Australian government to impose similarly tough restrictions.

“Brazilian juice concentrate can be found in products on shelves across Australia,” Riverina Citrus chairman Frank Battistel said.

“We are not aware of any current activity by any Australian safety or regulatory body in regards to this potential public health issue, despite this being public knowledge in the United States for the last two to three weeks.”

The advice from Australian citrus industry experts is to purchase local products to avoid the fungicide.

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