Mutual Petitions FDA Regarding OJ Brix

Ernie NeffOrange Juice

Brix

Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM) is making efforts to protect growers in the event Florida oranges don’t meet the minimum Brix requirement for not-from-concentrate (NFC) orange juice (OJ).

FCM recently sent a formal request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeking enforcement discretion to protect growers from the likely contingency that Florida’s 2021-22 orange crop may not meet FDA’s minimum Brix requirement of 10.5° for pasteurized orange juice (NFC).

As with yield, Brix values have been in decline in recent years. Last season, Brix values for Florida’s orange crop were the lowest in 15 years, with the average hitting just at 10.5°, the lower limit for NFC.

When processors do not have higher Brix fruit for blending to meet the minimum NFC requirements, low Brix fruit is necessarily diverted into concentrate. Low Brix oranges create a financial burden for both growers and processors while also leading to higher prices for consumers.

Growers are paid less due to their lower pounds solids at delivery. Processors who need the fruit for NFC must cover processing needs with higher Brix juice brought in from other production areas for blending in order to pass USDA inspection and ship compliant product. The extra storage, processing and transportation costs cannot always be passed on.

The members of the Florida Citrus Processors Association deem the situation dire, and its board recently voted to help FCM offset legal expenses incurred in approaching FDA. In 2018, the Florida Department of Citrus made a similar request to FDA for enforcement discretion, but the agency did not act on the request.

A study done at the time showed that consumers would not detect a difference between 10.5° Brix and a slightly lower Brix. “If FDA agrees with us, the NFC packaged in Florida will continue to be a premium product made from mature Florida oranges,” said FCM Executive Vice President/CEO Mike Sparks. “We do not see this as a quality issue.”

See an earlier report on FCM’s plan to act on the issue.

Source: Florida Citrus Mutual’s Aug. 20 Triangle newsletter

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