Update on Florida’s Orange Brix Issue

Ernie NeffOrange Juice

Brix

Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM) provided additional information about the issue of low Brix oranges in its Nov. 19 Triangle newsletter. It reported that Florida growers and processors “are bracing for another season of low Brix oranges.”

Earlier this year, FCM sought enforcement discretion regarding Brix in pasteurized orange juice, not from concentrate (NFC), from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) with the financial assistance of Florida Citrus Processors Association (FCPA). The federal standard of identity for NFC requires a minimum Brix of 10.5.

The FDA denied FCM’s request to relax the standard of identity and allow Florida’s crop to be used in NFC with less reliance on imports to “blend up” to 10.5 or divert lower Brix fruit to concentrate. FDA explained that minor deviations from the requirement was not an enforcement priority of FDA. “This suggestion fell short of the guaranteed safe harbor that growers had sought,” the Triangle stated. “Also, Florida’s requirement that USDA inspect all NFC for conformity to 10.5 made FDA’s suggestion untenable.”

The Triangle quoted FCPA Executive Director Kristen Carlson saying, “No Florida processor is going to violate federal law simply because FDA tells us it’s not an enforcement priority.”

FDA stated that it would entertain temporary marketing permits (TMPs) for brands to sell lower Brix juice under separate labels that distinguish lower Brix juice from NFC. The Triangle reported that the use of TMPs was “a non-starter with processors.” Carlson said FCPA members have declined the use of TMPs, citing the challenges that carrying two labels for essentially the same product would bring. Those problems include brand erosion, cost, likely retailer resistance to additional SKUs and potential consumer confusion.

The Triangle reported that Brix levels will be closely monitored over the next few months “and depending on urgency, a renewed effort with FDA, petition to amend the standard, or both could be launched.” It stated that amending the standard would take three to five years. “Florida Citrus Mutual’s board of directors will continue to be presented updates and options to address the anticipated low Brix and its effect on pasteurized orange juice, not-from-concentrate product,” the Triangle concluded.

Source: Florida Citrus Mutual