By P.J. Huffstutter
CHICAGO (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc said company tests of its Tropicana orange juice showed low levels of a potentially dangerous fungicide, but levels were below federal safety concerns and did not pose a health risk.
The company said in a statement on Saturday it was conducting additional tests after the Food and Drug Administration announced on Wednesday that it would temporarily halt orange juice imports and remove any juice found to have dangerous amounts of the fungicide carbendazim.
The scare was triggered when soft-drink giant Coca-Cola Co, maker of Minute Maid orange juice, said it had discovered carbendazim in shipments from Brazil and alerted U.S. authorities about a potential industry-wide problem.
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, its use is limited to non-food items such as paints, textiles and ornamental trees, although U.S. authorities allow trace amounts of carbendazim in 31 food types including grains, nuts and some non-citrus fruits.
The FDA said low levels of carbendazim are not dangerous and the agency had no plans for a recall.
"The results we have to date confirm that the levels of fungicide in the imported Brazilian juice we tested are below the levels the agencies said raise safety concerns," PepsiCo said. "We will continue to test, as we take this matter seriously, and we're working aggressively to address any concerns."
Orange juice futures prices hit record highs on the fungicide reports, then declined.
On Friday, U.S. health regulators cleared the way for the first shipments of imported orange juice to enter the country since January 4, when authorities began testing for the fungicide in juice products from Brazil.
The FDA said final tests confirmed that three samples of Canadian orange juice were negative for the fungicide carbendazim. Test results have yet to be announced for 28 import samples from Brazil, Mexico and Canada.
(Additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Vicki Allen)