What is carbendazim?

Carbendazim is fungicide that is used in a number of crops to help control the growth of unwanted fungus and mold.  If left untreated, mold, fungus, pests and insects on crops can damage the safety and quality of our food supply.

Is carbendazim harmful and should I be concerned?

No.  There is no reason for you to be concerned at this time.  Carbendazim is not registered for use in the U.S., however it continues to be safely used in Europe as well as in  Canada,  Brazil and Japan.  Recent news reports indicated that low levels of carbendazim were found in orange juice imported from Brazil during regular testing.  As a precaution, the results were reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indicated that orange juice with less than 80 parts per billion (ppb) would not be of a concern.  FDA has determined that the reported low levels of carbendazim in the marketplace today are not of a safety concern.  FDA is testing imported juice and will reject any that contain detectable levels of carbendazim.  Thus far, the FDA has not rejected any imported orange juice in this regard.  

Why is carbendazim being used on the oranges in Brazil and not in the U.S?

Orange growers in Brazil used the fungicide carbendazim to combat a disease that was affecting their fruit.  Carbendazim is a widely used fungicide that is permitted for use on food crops in most countries throughout the world.  It is not registered for use in the United States, but for several years ending in 2009, the U.S. EPA allowed orange growers in Florida and Louisiana to use fungicides that break down naturally into carbendazim.

Is carbendazim commonly found in foods and beverages?

Yes.  Carbendazim and other fungicides are used to protect foods from fungus and mold.  A closely related fungicide, thiophanate-methyl, which is converted into carbendazim, is allowed to be used in the U.S. on numerous fruits, vegetables, and cereal crops.  It is possible that low levels could be detected in these foods.  The levels are regularly tested and monitored by the food industry to ensure the foods and beverages we purchase are safe to eat and to serve our families.  

All foods, regardless of their country of origin, must adhere to FDA’s safety requirements..  The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011 provides additional requirements to ensure food and food ingredients imported into the U.S. are safe for all consumers.

What’s being done to ensure the safety of foods and beverages in regards to carbendazim?

As with all foods, beverages and ingredients – domestic or imported, the FDA provides oversight and guidance to ensure the food supply is safe for you and your family.  In cooperation with other parts of the federal government, other global health and regulatory agencies and the food industry, the FDA is dedicated to providing a safe and abundant food supply and will act quickly to resolve any problem that may occur.

Putting Risk in Perspective – Here’s what you need to know about carbendazim . . .

Our food and beverage supply continues to be safe.  The low levels of carbendazim found in a number of beverages are well below any level of concern.   FDA is not taking any action at this time because the low levels of carbendazim currently detected do not pose any health risk.  There is no reason for you to change your diet at this time.

Additional Resources:

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA): Questions & Answers: Carbendazim and Orange Juice Products

U.S. FDA: Orange Juice Products and Carbendazim: Addendum to FDA Letter to the Juice Products Association

U.S. FDA: Don’t Worry About Your Orange Juice

Ensuring a Safe Food Supply:  A Concise Guide to the U.S. Food Regulatory System