It is not just the food additives listed on the labels that present potential health hazards for consumers–the unlisted chemicals such as those in the food packaging itself that can leach into our food can also present the potential for serious adverse outcomes. Food safety organizations continue to submit legal petitions requesting that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban those chemicals that are currently used in U.S. food products and packaging and have been scientifically determined to pose a health threat.
In this latest effort, food safety and environmental organizations petitioned the FDA to ban the chemical perchlorate from our food. Perchlorate is currently FDA-approved for use in packaging for dry food. Unfortunately, like BPA and some other food packaging chemicals, it does not stay there, but instead, migrates into the food we eat–including dry baby food, rice cereal, flour and spices. There is a special level of concern where babies are concerned as this chemical has been linked in scientific studies to impaired brain development in infants.
So how did the FDA respond to the most recent petition to ban this chemical of concern from food packaging? You guessed it…they rejected it. This means consumers will have to continue to navigate potentially dangerous chemicals in their food all on their own…
Solutions: First, let everyone you know who cares for infants and toddlers to avoid processed, non-organic baby foods–especially dry foods like cereals. Whenever possible, the best alternative (whether dry or wet food) is to make your own baby food using fresh, whole ingredients, organic when possible. And secondly, women who are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant should avoid processed foods (including delivered pizza in traditional pizza boxes) that may contain this chemical in the food packaging because scientific studies have demonstrated that, “A pregnant woman’s fetus is also at risk if the mother eats food tainted with perchlorate—especially in the first trimester—if she is among the 20 percent of women who do not get enough iodine” (source).
Tom Neltner, Esq.
EcoWatch: Food packaging chemical ‘perchlorate’: Flawed assumptions paved way for use
Documents obtained from the FDA show that the agency’s original approval for using perchlorate in food packaging was based on a flawed and outdated assumption that it would not migrate into food at significant levels.
Tests provided by the chemical’s manufacturer late in 2015 showed that perchlorate did in fact migrate into food. The agency discounted the migration as “insignificant” and used flawed assumptions that were inconsistent with the law.
That makes the FDA’s denial so much more troubling.
Environmental Defense Fund
Consumers can’t avoid perchlorate
As the case with perchlorate shows, there is much more to our food than what is listed as ingredients on the label. Chemicals are also used to flavor, color, preserve, package, process and store our food and some of these additives are bad for our health…
Food Safety News
Using the same mechanism that resulted in the banning of cyclamates in 1970, a group of public health watchdog organizations is challenging the FDA’s decision not to ban perchlorate in food packaging.
The consumer advocates say the Food and Drug Administration ignored scientific evidence that shows the chemical disrupts fetal and infant brain development, causing permanent brain damage. The groups contend FDA’s own data shows perchlorate, which is used in rocket fuel, herbicides and explosives, “migrates” from packaging materials into foods.
“Perchlorate threatens fetal and child brain development by impairing the thyroid’s ability to use iodine in the diet to make the thyroid hormone — T4 — that is essential to brain development…
“FDA approved its use in plastic packaging for food in 2005 — despite evidence that it harms fetal and infant brain development. An FDA report published in 2016 found that virtually all foods sampled had detectable levels of perchlorate. Even more concerning, the amount of perchlorate in foods infants and toddlers eat increased 36 percent and 24 percent, respectively, from 2008-2012 compared to 2005-2006. Dry rice cereal — often the first solid food given to a baby — and barley cereal showed the greatest increase from before and after the decision.
“Today’s objection filed with the FDA cites the agency’s refusal to acknowledge evidence that perchlorate exposure increased significantly after its 2005 decision to allow perchlorate in packaging. Additionally, the objection cites evidence that FDA’s initial decision to approve perchlorate grossly underestimated the amount of perchlorate migrating into dry food.”
–Environmental Defense Fund, one of the groups seeking a formal evidentiary public hearing before an administrative law judge.
The advocacy groups are requesting the formal evidentiary public hearing in response to FDA’s announcement on May 4 that it would not ban the chemical from dry food packaging.
In their request, the advocacy groups say the FDA made numerous legal and scientific errors during the decision-making process.
“FDA relied on a single study using a test designed for small packaging that was conducted by a company with a vested interest in the outcome,” according to the request for a hearing.
Contamination of food by perchlorate is specifically referenced as one of the dangers of the chemical by the Environmental Protection Agency, which considers it to be a carcinogen.
Food companies add perchlorate to plastic packaging for dry food such as rice cereal, flour and spices to reduce the buildup of static charges. The consumer advocates say an industry study showed the toxic chemical migrates into the food inside the packages.