PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Imports of orange juice have been stopped, as the FDA tests for an anti-fungal agent. Higher than acceptable levels of this agent have been found in orange juice from Brazil.

The FDA was alerted on December 28th.

The substance in question is carbendazim, which is sprayed on trees to prevent mold growth.

“There was a study done, published in 2008, that showed a possible link with cancer and infertility in laboratory animals, and that’s why it was withdrawn from use in agriculture in the United States,” explains Dr. Ronald Voorhees of the Allegheny County Health Department.

In mice, high doses result in impaired sperm production and harm to developing fetuses. Blood cells in a laboratory have shown genetic damage can occur as well.

“They’re really looking at levels hundreds of times higher than what’s being reported now, and it would be hard to consume that much juice,” says Dr. Voorhees.

The FDA is focusing on U.S. brands that contain a high percentage of Brazilian juice. This includes some popular brands, such as Simply Orange and Minute Maid.

Brazil is a top exporter of orange juice and the fruit grows there year round.

“EPA has determined the levels that are in the orange juice do not cause a health concern, so I think at this point people can proceed with drinking juice, and we’ll certainly see how it unfolds further,” Dr. Voorhees says.

The FDA is looking for samples at ports and grocery stores that test higher than 80 parts per billion. If that is found, the product will be removed from the market.

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