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FDA’s Failure to Ban Perchlorate in Food Packaging Sparks Backlash

Led by the nonprofit environmental advocacy group the Environmental Defense Fund, those objecting to the FDA’s decision contend that the regulator failed to take their own scientific evidence into account that has linked perchlorate consumption with disruptions in fetal and infant brain development.

FDA’s Failure to Ban Perchlorate in Food Packaging Sparks Backlash

By: Sarah Hand, M.Sc.

Posted on: in News | Food News

Health and consumer groups are urging the FDA to reconsider their decision not to ban perchlorate, a chemical added to food packaging to reduce static electricity. Led by the nonprofit environmental advocacy group the Environmental Defense Fund, those objecting to the FDA’s decision contend that the regulator failed to take their own scientific evidence into account that has linked perchlorate consumption with disruptions in fetal and infant brain development.

According to a report cited by the consumer advocate groups, perchlorate from packaging can leach into foods, posing a health risk to those who consume the products. Perchlorate – which is considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to be a carcinogen – affects brain development in infants by interfering with the normal functioning of the thyroid in its production of thyroid hormone T4.

“FDA approved its use in plastic packaging for food in 2005 — despite evidence that it harms fetal and infant brain development,” said a report press release issued by the Environmental Protection Fund. “Last month, FDA rejected a 2014 petition by health and environmental organizations to ban the chemical as a food additive.”

In 2016, the FDA published an updated report detailing the amount of perchlorate found in foods between 2008 and 2012. Compared to 2005-2006, the report found that the amount of perchlorate in food consumed by infants and toddlers increased by 36 and 24 percent, respectively.

“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,” said the press release. “Additionally, the objection cites evidence that FDA’s initial decision to approve perchlorate grossly underestimated the amount of perchlorate migrating into dry food.”

In addition to the Environmental Defense Fund, multiple other public interest groups – including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and the Center for Environmental Health – joined the objection filing. The FDA made the decision not to ban the chemical in food packaging on May 4, 2017.

The group are requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge – a rare occurrence in the FDA’s history. The last time this type of hearing was conducted was in the 1970s, which resulted in the banning of the artificial sweetener cyclamate over health concerns.


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