The Center for Food Safety and the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with four other public health and environmental organizations, have sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to force the agency to act on a petition to ban perchlorate in food packaging. The original petition was filed in December 2014. The FDA missed a June 2015 deadline to respond.
Perchlorate is an endocrine disruptor that impairs hormone production crucial to brain development. It poses a health threat, especially to fetuses, infants, and children. The FDA has approved this chemical for use as an anti-static agent in plastic packaging for dry foods such as beans, rice, and flour.
Erik Olson, director of the Health Program at NRDC said in a statement, “this is a toxic chemical, and it’s all over our food supply. There’s enough evidence of harm for FDA to ban it, and there is no excuse for the agency’s inaction.”
Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of Center for Food Safety added, “perchlorate is primarily used in rocket fuel. There is no reason FDA should allow a chemical like this in or on food products. It is irresponsible, illegal, and indefensible for FDA to continue withholding a response to our petition when human health is at stake.”
Perchlorate interferes with the thyroid gland’s ability to uptake iodine, which is used to make hormones. Those hormones are used for brain development in infants and fetuses. But most pregnant and nursing mothers do not consume sufficient iodine even without the harmful effects of perchlorate.
Center for Food Safety analyzed documentation supporting the FDA’s 2005 decision to allow perchlorate in dry food packaging, and found that the application contained a mathematical error that “underestimated the perchlorate exposure by 84 times,” according to CFS’s letter to the FDA in 2014. When the FDA posted the decision about perchlorate on its website, the agency made another mistake that allowed levels 3.3 times higher than the original decision. In addition, the decision was based on assumptions that chemicals do not migrate into dry food from packaging. That assumption is flawed and the FDA conceded that point in 2011. Perchlorate is not labeled on food packages.
The other agencies in the suit are Breast Cancer Fund, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the Environmental Working Group. The petition for a writ of mandamus was filed March 31, 2016 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.