The organizations have requested a public hearing, claiming the FDA has ignored evidence that children’s exposure to the chemical has increased since its 2005 decision to allow perchlorate in packaging. They say it could disrupt fetal and infant brain development.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the amount of perchlorate in infants’ diets has increased by 36%, and in toddlers’ diets by 24% since it has been allowed in packaging. “FDA’s initial decision to approve perchlorate grossly underestimated the amount of perchlorate migrating into dry food,” the objection document says.
Perchlorate is a chemical primarily used in rocket fuel and fireworks, but it is also used in some pesticides and fertilizers, and can be formed during the degradation of sodium hypochlorite used to disinfect water.
It is added to plastic packaging — often for baby food, flour and spices — to reduce static charge, which can be a significant problem in the food industry in the filling and packing stages of production. Static can cause food to stick to the heat seal area on a package, attract airborne particles and affect the labeling of products if the area is not entirely clean.
Other solutions to the chemical do exist, such as installing ionized blowers or static neutralization bars into a production line. There is evidence that these can reduce waste, as well as wear and tear on machinery.
The groups argue that the FDA made numerous errors in its assessment of the chemical. The agency, they say, has not discussed why perchlorate levels have increased in food products since 2005-2006, despite its own research revealing a significant rise in perchlorate levels in foods like salami, bologna and baby rice cereals.
The levels at which perchlorate is allowed in food packaging in the United States far exceed those permitted elsewhere, with the FDA approving its use at up to 1.2% in plastic packaging for dry foods. In the European Union, the maximum permitted level is 0.05%, which is considered to have no effect on health due to migration from food packaging.