FDA Refuses to Remove Rocket Fuel Chemical from Food Packaging

WASHINGTONThe Food and Drug Administration denied a petition today by public interest groups, including EWG, to ban the use in dry food packaging of perchlorate, a toxic chemical that is also an ingredient in rocket fuel.

“Taking a toxic rocket fuel chemical that can harm kids’ brains out of food packaging seems like the right call for an agency charged with keeping food safe,” said Tina Sigurdson, EWG’s assistant general counsel. “But the FDA decided the risk to millions of babies, toddlers and pregnant women from eating perchlorate-laced foods is acceptable.”

On behalf of the Breast Cancer Fund, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Science in the Public Interest and EWG, in March 2016 the Natural Resources Defense Council and Center for Food Safety sued the FDA, asking the agency to ban perchlorate in dry food packaging.

Perchlorate impairs hormone production critical to brain development and poses a particular health threat to fetuses, infants and children. Perchlorate is the explosive ingredient in rocket fuel and has contaminated the drinking water for millions of Americans nationwide. But the FDA has also approved it for use as an anti-static agent in plastic packaging for dry foods such as beans, rice and flour. 

A December 2016 study from FDA scientists documented a substantial increase in the amount of perchlorate contamination in food eaten by infants and toddlers. The Environmental Defense Fund reported the study found that in food sampled between 2008 and 2012, the amount of perchlorate infants eat increased by more than one third, and the amount toddlers eat increased by almost one fourth, compared to food sampled from 2003 to 2006. This increase occurred after FDA began allowing perchlorate’s use in some plastic packaging.

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