Protecting industry or people? FDA refuses to ban toxic chemical in packaging for baby cereal.

Tom Neltner

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today rejected a petition to ban perchlorate from our food, a chemical known to impair brain development in infants.

While best known as a rocket fuel component, perchlorate is approved for use in packaging for dry food such as baby rice cereal, flour and spices. Unfortunately, it also winds up in the food we eat.

Since the FDA approved the use in 2005, the amount of perchlorate that infants and toddlers ingest has increased significantly and more types of food have become contaminated. The use may have contributed to today’s high levels of perchlorate in infant rice cereal – often the first solid food infants eat.

A group of health and environmental organizations petitioned the FDA to ban the chemical as a food additive, pointing to the fact that it impairs infant brain development. This concern doesn’t end with infants and toddlers: A pregnant woman’s fetus is also at risk if the mother eats food tainted with perchlorate – especially in the first trimester – if she is among the 20 percent  of women who do not get enough iodine.

The agency’s decision today, clearly, puts our kids needlessly at risk and should be reversed.

Consumers can’t avoid perchlorate

As the case with perchlorate shows, there is much more to our food than what is listed as ingredients on the label. Chemicals are also used to flavor, color, preserve, package, process and store our food and some of these additives are bad for our health.

Perchlorate is used by food companies to reduce static in dry food packaging, but today, scientists know that perchlorate threatens fetal and infant brain development even at lower levels than previously understood.

The packaging can be used for final products or raw materials such as rice, flour and dyes, before or during processing.

Flawed assumptions paved way for use

Documents obtained from the FDA show that the agency’s original approval for using perchlorate in food packaging was based on a flawed and outdated assumption that it would not migrate into food at significant levels.

Tests provided by the chemical’s manufacturer late in 2015 showed that perchlorate did in fact migrate into food. The agency discounted the migration as “insignificant” and used flawed assumptions that were inconsistent with the law.

That makes the FDA’s denial so much more troubling.

Parents already have a lot to deal with trying to get their kids healthy food. The FDA should be removing this unnecessary use that contaminates food, not increasing the threats to kids’ health. 


I can't believe whats going on, this is're not going to protect our babies?...Are you mad...completely stupid, or what?

connie craig
May 5, 2017 at 2:05 am

The current situation is reaching intolerable limits for the health of the people. I can't believe this is being allowed.

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May 5, 2017 at 12:39 pm

As I see it, this one lands in the "politics makes us worse" department. When government agencies like the FDA have near-monopolistic power on determining food safety and packaging standards, "winners" and "losers" are created with every bureaucratic decision. Note that if EDF is correct and this is an unwise decision, the FDA's seal of approval makes most American families with children less safe by engendering a false sense of security about the safety of the food packaging. The government interference in this market reduces choice, reduces information available to consumers and makes us less safe, not more safe.

Competing private voluntary standards are a much better solution. If you don't trust the big corporate standard (which is usually the standard represented by the FDA given the reality of how regulations are made and enforced), you could instead choose to buy stuff with the Certified Seal of All Natural Goodness and Awesomeness (not yet in existence--but I should trademark it). Under the current system, though, anyone who wants to develop and market with more stringent holistic standards has to do so at additional expense while the big corporate FDA/USDA seal is subsidized or completely underwritten by our tax dollars. As a result, items conforming to "safer" or "better" standards are usually available only in boutique venues for the rich and the 1% due to their additional cost compared to those certified "safe" conforming to government subsidized standards.

On a related note, given what is allowed, does anyone think that food labeled as FDA certified "organic" actually meets the standards for organic food that most who care about food being "organic" would agree with?

Let's get politics out of our food and give power back to the people. Privatize the FDA and USDA and all such and let these politicized bureaucracies earn our trust back, or fade into obscurity as better certifying agencies and standards come into ascendancy.

Paul Miller
May 6, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Show the list of companies who use this or the name brands of the foods. It we can contact the companies and FDA, we will have more of an impact of having this chemical banned.

May 7, 2017 at 1:13 pm

This is criminal!

Ellen Arsove
May 7, 2017 at 9:07 pm

What is the purpose or monetary reason for this additive?

May 7, 2017 at 11:09 pm

From article: "Perchlorate is used by food companies to reduce static in dry food packaging, but today, scientists know that perchlorate threatens fetal and infant brain development even at lower levels than previously understood."

May 9, 2017 at 1:28 pm

In reply to by Ctreherne

Why would the FDA ignore studies that prove this is poisonous to our babies? I think that it should be the prime object of mothers and fathers, to refuse to buy these baby cereals. Also we need to check all foods, to see if they contain this chemical. Why is this not headlines, across the country? Are a group of people, determined to undermine this world, for reasons unknown to us?

Elizabeth Durfee
May 9, 2017 at 12:27 am

Again, corporate profits trump health and safety. Age-old conflict where money always wins. Who cares that the victims may end up on public assistance for the rest of their lives because of the damage done. Some CEO somewhere got a big bonus.

May 9, 2017 at 2:24 am

I think it was Donald Rumsfeld's G. D. Searle Pharmaceutical company that tried for 8 years to get the FDA Commissioner to approve the inorganic aspartic acid compound, Aspartame, approved for inclusion in the American food supply. With the coming of Bush-Reagan the FDA commissioner was out and a new commissioner approved Aspartame. Three months later he left to work for G. D. Searle. Red Dye Lake 40, a known carcinogen, was taken out of the food supply by legislators and bureaucrats working for you. When Bush-Reagan came in they 'legalized' it's inclusion in your food supply again. The little Red Dye Lake 40 M'nM is now a cute little animated cartoon, like Joe Camel. There is no defense, but self-defense.

Gary E. Andrews
May 10, 2017 at 4:54 pm

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