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Brazilian orange juice: another reason to shop local, grow your own… | New World Seeds & Tubers

First some news about your orders: as you’re probably aware, we were flooded with orders even before I announced that I had listed new seeds. Someone did something like a pingback to watch our site, was alerted instantly when I posted the new listings, and spread the news before I had a chance to make the announcement myself. I wish some of my other lines of business would go viral like that!

What you probably don’t know is that we were also flooded with customer service inquiries. A lot of them have to do with outstanding orders, such as people who want us to change their shipping address or billing method. Hopefully, I spot those before the orders get shipped out. If not, we’ll do our best to fix the problem; we want you to be satisfied with your order.

Some of them are questions people have before they can make an order, and they’re probably feeling anxious about not getting what they want. Some items have sold out, but the good news is more items will get listed as soon as we catch up with our backlog and have time to inventory and list them.

Some of our backlog of inquiries are setting high expectations for how much attention we can give any one potential customer. In order to serve everybody, we’re going to have to make some of these interactions brief. The problem is probably a result of scaling up operations; Tom used to have plenty of time to interact with customers when he was only sending out dozens of potato packets and seeds. What might make sense as a solution is for us to provide more information up front, so that we’re not answering the same questions over and over (though we do get a lot of questions that are already covered in our “Frequently Asked Questions”). It’s just one of those growing pains that will get sorted out when we have enough “efficiency of scale” to handle the overhead.

Speaking of which, kudos and thanks to Jane for volunteering to help Tom organize and pack orders. We really appreciate that. I’ve talked to Tom regarding how we can reciprocate. Tom has been blessed with the generosity of many people like Jane.

Now that administrative matters are out of the way, here’s another important matter you might have heard about in the news:

A few weeks ago, shipments of Brazilian orange juice destined for the United States tested positive for a fungucide called carbendazim. Not surprising as it is legal to use in Brazil. European regulations allow higher concentrations, and Japanese and Canadian regulations still higher; the juice would probably be allowed in those countries.

Here is what Wikipedia says about carbendazim:

Carbendazim is a widely used broad-spectrum benzimidazole fungicide and a metabolite of benomyl.

The fungicide is used to control plant diseases in cereals and fruit, including citrus, bananas, strawberries, pineapples, and pome.[2] It is also controversially used in Queensland, Australia on macadamia plantations.[3]A 4.7% solution of carbendazim hydrochloride is sold as Eertavas and marketed as a treatment for Dutch elm disease.

Studies have found that high doses of carbendazim cause infertility and destroy the testicles of laboratory animals.[4][5] Carbendazim was included in a biocide ban proposed by the Swedish Chemicals Agency [6] and approved by the European Parliament on January 13, 2009.[7]

I don’t know what the ramifications of carbendazim traces in orange juice are at the levels found. Since I don’t know, it’s probably best to avoid Brazilian orange juice, since that fungicide is in wide use there.

I recently bought some orange juice, and it probably contains concentrates from any of multiple countries, depending on where it can be found most inexpensively. It probably contains plenty of Brazilian orange juice, that got through before the testing was done. There is discussion of a ban on Brazilian OJ imports, but I would guess that economic factors will weigh against it, as otherwise orange juice prices in the USA would rise significantly more than they already are.

I’m actually all for “free trade”, as long as it is informed trade. It is unethical to sneak anything past the buyer that he would not agree to if he knew about it. The “commodization of everything” makes informed consent unlikely to happen.

The bottom line is that if you’re not sure it’s safe, think twice about buying it. The Food and Drug Administration caught this particular problem in this particular batch, but it is impractical for them to test everything, and you have no assurance they’re going to do anything about it even if they could.

What do you think?

As for me, it’s back to work packing orders and answering customer service inquiries.

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One Response to “Brazilian orange juice: another reason to shop local, grow your own…”

  1. Thanks for letting me know what happened, Rob. At this point, although I would certainly like some different “Blue’s”, I am happy that I have saved some seed back. Will likely go through Tom personally to get some as I am based in Alberta, Canada. Thanks again!
    ~Kat

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