Scientists at the AB SCIEX/Phenomenex Rapid Response Unit have developed a method to test orange juice for the presence of a chemical fungicide called Carbendazim, which has been getting media attention in North America in recent weeks. To protect consumers and adhere to stricter food safety policies, U.S. public health officials and independent food testing laboratories, such as Jupiter Analytix, are actively testing orange juice to determine the risk and scope of this public health issue.
This new method from the joint Rapid Response Unit of AB SCIEX, a global leader in life science analytical technologies, and Phenomenex, a global leader in separation science techniques, is the first available, comprehensive method by LC/MS/MS (liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry) specifically optimized to test for this fungicide. The low-level detection capabilities of AB SCIEX’s highly sensitive, QTRAP mass spectrometry technology, combined with the advanced HPLC column chemistry from Phenomenex, enable quantitation of Carbendazim as low as 0.1 ng/mL (ppb) in orange juice – levels 100x lower than the 10 ppb limit typically targeted by the FDA for unapproved pesticides.
Detection of Carbendazim in assorted orange juice products has led to heightened concerns surrounding imported orange juice products, according to public reports in the United States in recent weeks. Fungicides, such as Carbendazim, which can be directly used or can form as a by-product of other restricted fungicides, had been used in some cases for the treatment of citrus trees in Brazil against disease, such as black spot, which makes the oranges fall from the trees before they are ripe.
Although Carbendazim is approved for use in some countries, it is not approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at this time for use on oranges, and, therefore, its presence in orange juice is in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Given that the United States reportedly buys an estimated 15 percent of Brazil¹s orange juice exports, the detection of this substance has encouraged a call to action.
After being notified of the detection of the fungicide in some imported Brazilian juice samples in December, the U.S. government has been reportedly focusing on imports of orange juice and is currently conducting risk assessments to evaluate the situation.
Jupiter Analytix, a division of Jupiter Environmental Laboratories that is situated near the heart of Florida’s citrus industry, reports a significant uptick in their analytical testing business due to concerns from imported Brazilian orange juice allegedly tainted with Carbendazim.
“Our AB SCIEX QTRAP 5500 LC/MS/MS System has allowed us to rapidly develop protocols that far exceed the detection requirements cited by the U.S. FDA,” said Edward Dabrea, Vice President, Jupiter Environmental Laboratories. “Jupiter has been able to respond to customer demands and produce excellent library searchable spectra for the fungicide in question. This gives us and our clients the confidence knowing that their products are safe due, in part, to the superior results we are able to obtain from next-generation technology, such as the QTRAP 5500 System.”
AB SCIEX has a successful track record of enabling food testing laboratories to identify food contaminants, such as addressing the global food safety crisis resulting from melamine contamination in 2007 as well as leading the way to equip food testing labs to address the phthalate food contamination crisis of 2011. Phenomenex has a strong track record of helping food safety testing laboratories improve their analysis of a wide range of contaminants, most recently helping labs establish assays to detect dioxins in animal feeds and other products in response to the 2011 dioxin scare.
Last week, AB SCIEX and Phenomenex joined forces and announced a major initiative to improve food safety by creating a rapid response unit that can be accessed online anytime 24/7 at www.phenomenex.com/foodsafety. The Rapid Response Unit is also available by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to assist food testing labs in getting methods such as Carbendazim in orange juice up and running quickly in their own laboratory.
“The AB SCIEX/Phenomenex Rapid Response Unit is already playing an active role in assisting government agencies, food producers and beverage companies to ensure the safety of food and beverages,” said Joe Anacleto, Vice President and General Manager of the Applied Markets and Clinical Research Business, AB SCIEX. “Coupled with Phenomenex technology, our AB SCIEX technology is more than capable of pushing the limits of detection to identify and quantify the widest range of contaminants through the library searching function of our food safety testing solutions. This is critical for a proper response to protect consumers."
Sky Countryman, Manager, Applied Markets Research Team, Phenomenex, added, “The immediate reaction to the orange juice contamination concerns is an example of how this new AB SCIEX/Phenomenex Rapid Response Unit can be an extremely valuable resource for the food safety testing community. Not only are Phenomenex sample preparation and columns part of the most reliable workflow solutions in the industry, but we are also committed to openly sharing our expertise in analyzing food and beverages with the world in order to make a real difference.”
As part of its joint initiative to address food safety issues, AB SCIEX and Phenomenex are also building a network of independent food testing scientists and lab analysts around the world for sharing information to help accelerate responses to future food contamination crises. Food testing professionals who are interested in applying to become part of the network can contact the companies by emailing email@example.com.