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Coke fungicide prompts tests of Minute Maid and Simply Orange juices

Coke fungicide: Coca-Cola Co. alerted the FDA to a fungicide in its Minute Maid and Simply Orange brands of orange juice as well as a competitor's brand.

By MARY CLARE JALONICKAssociated Press / January 13, 2012

Coke fungicide found in OJ: A worker pours harvested oranges into a sack on a farm in Limeira, Thursday. The fungicide carbendazim has been found in orange juice made by Coca-Cola Co.

Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

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Coca-Cola Co. acknowledged Thursday it was the company that alerted federal regulators about low levels of fungicide in its own orange juice and in competitors' juice, prompting juice prices to rise and increased government testing for the residue.

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The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have said orange juice is safe to drink and the levels found are below levels of concern.

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, which makes the Minute Maid and Simply Orange brands of orange juice, said Thursday it had notified FDA of the low levels of the fungicide carbendazim in the company's orange juice and in competitors' juice. The FDA had said Monday that an unnamed company had told the agency about thefungicide and confirmed Wednesday the company was Coca-Cola.

Neither the FDA nor the company said which orange juice products tested positive. Carbendazim is not currently approved for use on citrus in the United States, but it is used to combat mold on orange trees in Brazil, which exports orange juice to the United States. Fungicides are used to control fungi or fungal spores in agriculture.

The FDA said Coca-Cola found levels up to 35 parts per billion of the fungicide, far below the European Union's maximum residue level of 200 parts per billion. The U.S. government has not established an official maximum residue level for carbendazim in orange juice.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said a risk assessment of carbendazim showed no risks at up to 80 parts per billion, but officials believe real levels of concern are much higher.

"The residues we have seen reported at 35 parts per billion are thousands of times below the concentration that would raise safety concerns," said EPA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara.

Coca-Cola spokesman Dan Schafer said: "This is an industry issue that affects every company that produces products in the U.S. using orange juice from Brazil."

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