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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Samples of imported orange juice from five countries were found to contain safe levels of the fungicide carbendazim, U.S. regulators said on Friday, but they made no mention of samples from Brazil, which accounts for about half of all U.S. imports.
The Food and Drug Administration said that 26 of the 45 samples it had taken since testing began on January 4 were "awaiting analysis or under compliance review."
Any carbendazim discovered in samples from Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica and Belize was at acceptable levels of below 10 parts per billion (ppb), the FDA said.
There was no word about imports from Brazil, which set off an orange juice scare after Coca-Cola Co. found carbendazim in orange juice samples from the South American country.
Carbendazim is used in Brazil to combat blossom blight and black spot, a type of mold that grows on orange trees.
But in the United States, it can be used only in non-food items such as paints, textiles and ornamental trees. U.S. authorities still allow trace amounts of carbendazim in 31 food types including grains, nuts and some non-citrus fruits -- but not in citrus juice.
Brands such as Tropicana, from PepsiCo Inc., and Coke's Minute Maid may contain a mix of juices sourced from Brazil and the United States.
All told, FDA said it had collected 45 samples of juice, juice concentrate and juice powder.
Nineteen have tested "non-violative" for carbendazim and 12 of those have been released.
The agency is also testing 14 samples of domestic orange juice.
The European Union allows imports with up to 200 ppb. The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates fungicides in the United States, considers several thousand parts per billion to be a health risk.
The chemical is banned in Australia.
The FDA said importers will have 90 days to export or destroy any product that has been refused.