And yet here we are, importing a massive amount – 32,000 tonnes of Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate from Brazil every year. I really have to wonder why we need to import all this juice from overseas, when we have a thriving citrus growing industry here in Australia, which is going out the door backwards!
Last week here in Tasmania, I was shopping for two large oranges for a gluten free flourless orange/almond cake I wanted to make. I ran down to my local Woolworths store, and not wanting to purchase an entire pre-packed bag of 12 plus oranges, I selected two, from the fruit bins on display. Imagine my displeasure when I discovered those oranges loose in the fruit bins were from the USA!
I remembered my trips around Australia, and the wonderful fruit orchards I had seen in Victoria, NSW and Qld. “Why is it”, I asked myself, “that we have to buy imported fruits, in the middle of summer, when we have thousands of acres planted here on our own door step?”
This week in the National and International News, we have been learning about a chemical (Carbendazim) which has been banned in the USA, the EU and Australia, but which is still used in Brazil.
The United States FDA has discovered that some orange juice imported from Brazil contains small amounts of this Chemical, and are monitoring the situation closely. It is a fungicide we definitely do not want in our food supply chain.
The ABC article I read online says:
Fruit Juice Australia’s chief executive officer Geoff Parker says they don’t have any concerns from a safety point of view.
“We are aware that some small traces of carbendazim has been detected in a small amount of imported juice into the US,” he said.
“We note that the US FDA, the regulator over there, is conducting more testing, and both the US Juice Products Association and the citrus growers in Brazil are all in dialogue with the US FDA to ensure that any further detection is dealt with.”
Mr Parker says reports that all orange juice imports into the US have been stopped are incorrect.
“Our intelligence from both the US juice producers and the citrus growers in Brazil point to the fact that there’s been a small amount of carbendazim detected, the FDA is continuing to do more testing and obviously if those tests show up with carbendazim in the imported juice I’m sure the US FDA will take further action.”
“What that action would be might entail halting imports but at this stage there’s still Brazilian imports heading towards the US.”
Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s chief scientist Dr Paul Brent says Australian consumers should not be concerned about drinking imported orange juice.
“We’ve tested for carbendazim in orange and fruit juices in the latest 23rd Australian Total Diet Survey and all the levels were below the health reference end points,” he said.
“We also have a permissible level in citrus juices in the Food Standards Code for carbendazim and its 10 parts per million and now because there’s a safety limit in the code we don’t test at the border for imported fruit juices.”
The article gives the impression FSANZ knows small amounts are in the supply chain entering into Australia, and they are not unduly concerned. However further reading sees the situation quite differently.
The Department of Primary Industry in Victoria tells us quite categorically that:
the use of carbendazim products on pome fruit (apples) has been banned due to public and occupational health and safety risks associated with its use, and the consumption of treated produce.
From January 25, 2010 the APVMA:
- restricted the horticultural and turf uses of carbendazim. New label instructions removed all uses (including post harvest dipping) of carbendazim on pome fruit, grapes, cucurbits (including melons), citrus fruit, custard apples, mango, stone fruit (including cherries) and turf
- extended health warnings on carbendazim product labels to include birth defects and male infertility in laboratory animals.
On January 19th, 2012 FSANZ published an article saying: oranges and orange juice sold in Australia will not be permitted to contain any carbendazim, after it was announced that existing permissions would be revoked in the first quarter of 2012.
Maybe the ABC should check their sources and get the facts correct.
That being said, it still brings me back to the rhetorical question of why, we here in the land of sunshine and plenty, import such a large quantity of both our fruit and various fruit juices from overseas sources. This chemical is banned in Australia and we do not want any of it – not even a measly 1% (or even less) of it in our food supply. Buy Australian Grown, support local producers, and don’t swallow banned poisons in your foods.
Before I sign off, have you ever read the label on the back of your store bought orange juice? This is an informative site which explains all those words manufacturers use to baffle you with science.
Here are some facts about the fungicide Carbendazim:
CARBENDAZIM SPILLAGE DISPOSAL
Do NOT wash away into sewer. Do NOT let this chemical enter the environment. Sweep spilled substance into containers; if appropriate, moisten first to prevent dusting. Carefully collect remainder, then remove to safe place.
EFFECTS OF LONG-TERM OR REPEATED EXPOSURE: Animal tests show that this substance possibly causes toxicity to human reproduction or development.
ENVIRONMENTAL DATA: The substance is very toxic to aquatic organisms. This substance does enter the environment under normal use. Great care, however, should be given to avoid any additional release, e.g. through inappropriate disposal.