On March 31, 2016 a consortium of 6 public health and environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning a petition on restricting the use of perchlorate in food packaging. The petition had been submitted to FDA in December 2014 (FPF reported). FDA has a legal requirement to respond to petitions within 6 months, however the agency missed the June 2015 deadline. The consortium includes the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Food Safety, Breast Cancer Fund, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the Environmental Working Group.

According to NRDC’s press release, “perchlorate impairs hormone production critical to brain development and poses a health threat, particularly to fetuses, infants and children.  FDA has approved it for certain specific uses, including 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 stated that “there’s enough evidence of harm for the FDA to ban it, and there is no excuse for the agency’s inaction.”

The same approach of petitioning to FDA and requesting a ban of chemicals of concern has been successful in the past: In January 2016, FDA withdrew food contact approval for 3 long-chain perfluorinated compounds (FPF reported).

Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director at the Environmental Defense Fund, writes in a related blog post that FDA had granted approval for perchlorate use in plastics for dry food packaging in 2005, and previous approval had been given for its use in gaskets. Neltner explained concerns related to perchlorate use in food packaging during his talk at the Food Packaging Forum’s 2014 workshop (watch the video). Perchlorate is “an acknowledged endocrine disrupter, it blocks the thyroid’s uptake of iodine,” Neltner explained. During pregnancy, iodine is critical for normal brain development. Perchlorate exposure during pregnancy has been linked to lower IQs in affected children (FPF reported). And, perchlorate exposures have been shown to exceed the tolerable daily intake in French children, as a study showed in 2015 (FPF reported).

In addition to perchlorate, further chemicals used in food contact materials have been linked to deficiencies in children’s brain development (FPF reported).

Read more

NRDC (March 31, 2016). “Groups sue to force FDA to act on chemical in food packaging.

Tom Neltner (March 31, 2016). “FDA sued for delay in deciding perchlorate food additive petition.Environmental Defense Fund

Tom Neltner (October 9, 2014). “Chemical food safety in the US – an analysis of FDA’s scientific basis for assessing chemical risk.Food Packaging Forum

Jenny Eagle (April 1, 2016). “6 NGOs file lawsuit against US FDA over perchlorate in plastic packaging.Food Production Daily

Chemical Watch (April 11, 2016). “NGOs file suit against FDA over perchlorate petition.