Free Markets, Free People
Brazilian orange juice banned in US
Right now there’s a shortage of orange juice in the US because of a number of diseases, especially one called “greening” that has been destroying the crop.
However, there’s an alternative – import Brazilian orange juice.
But we can’t:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, after several weeks of deliberation, has blocked imports of frozen, concentrated orange juice from Brazil, probably for the next 18 months or so, even though the agency says the juice is perfectly safe.
So if it is admittedly safe and we need the juice to help meet demand (and keep the price down) why can’t we import this juice? Why can’t we do what is necessary with something the FDA says is safe?
The FDA’s explanation is that its hands are legally tied. Its tests show that practically all concentrated juice from Brazil currently contains traces of the fungicide carbendazim, first detected in December by Coca-Cola, maker of Minute Maid juices. The amounts are small — so small that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says no consumers should be concerned.
The problem is, carbendazim has not been used on oranges in the U.S. in recent years, and the legal permission to use it on that crop has lapsed. As a result, there’s not a legal "tolerance" for residues of this pesticide in orange products.
So, according to the FDA, any speck of this fungicide, if found in orange juice, is an illegal adulterant and won’t be allowed, even though residues of the same fungicide are allowed in many other foods, including apple and grape juice.
There is no “legal permission” to use the fungicide on the crop because such “permission” has lapsed and thus there is no “legal tolerance” for any residue no matter how benign. Consequently, because of that lapse the regulatory regime says “no go” on the import of something perfectly safe and in demand.
The result of the unwarranted ban (this orange juice is welcome in Europe, by the way):
In 2010, about 11 percent of all the orange juice consumed in America came from Brazil, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That share may seem modest, but economist Thomas Prusa of Rutgers tells The Salt that cutting it out could boost wholesale prices of concentrated orange juice by 20 to 45 percent.
So gas prices aren’t the only thing going up soon. And in the case of orange juice, the price increase can be tied directly to government regulation.
As orange juice goes up by 20 to 45%, who is it that will be hurt the most? That’s right – the poorest among us who now either have to find a substitute or perhaps forgo the juice altogether.