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Center for Food Safety, Groups Sue to Force FDA to Ban Toxic Chemical in Food Packaging

October 29, 2019
Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety, Groups Sue to Force FDA to Ban Toxic Chemical in Food Packaging

WASHINGTON – Several environmental and public health advocacy groups filed a lawsuit today asking a federal court in New York to overturn the Food and Drug Administration's denial of a petition to ban the use of a dangerous chemical, perchlorate, in food packaging and other materials used to store and transport food. 

Plaintiffs in the case include Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), representing themselves, and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP), Center for Environmental Health (CEH), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and Environmental Working Group (EWG), represented by Earthjustice. 

The groups offered the following statements:

"Perchlorate is a dangerous chemical that has no place in our food system," said Ryan Talbott, Staff Attorney for the Center for Food Safety. "Instead of protecting public health and ensuring a safe food supply, FDA caved to industry pressure in a move that ensures continued exposure to this toxic chemical for years to come."

"Perchlorate harms kids, and it is all over our food supply. FDA has enough evidence of these health dangers to take action right now, and its refusal to ban this toxic chemical was reckless," said Erik D. Olson, Senior Strategic Director for Health and Food for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The courts are absolutely key in blocking brazen Trump administration attempts, like this one, to ignore science and put people at risk for the benefit of private corporate interests."

"A thyroid hormone-disrupting chemical used in rocket fuel, explosives, firearms and fireworks shouldn't be coming anywhere near our food, yet the FDA is continuing to defend its use in food packaging. We've petitioned, been stalled, our objections and arguments ignored, and our request for a public hearing rejected.  It's now time that the FDA answer in court for not protecting our health," said Lisette van Vliet, Senior Policy Coordinator for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.

"The FDA's refusal to end the use of a hormone-disrupting chemical like perchlorate in food packaging endangers the health of babies, pregnant mothers, and the development of infants' brains," said Caroline Cox, Senior Scientist for Center for Environmental Health. "The agency has made its priorities clear: politics outweigh sound science and protecting human health."

"FDA's refusal to ban perchlorate in materials that contact our food is illegal. It flies in the face of the Agency's own evidence showing that people are exposed to dangerous levels of perchlorate through food," said Earthjustice attorney Alexis Andiman. "Consumers cannot identify every substance that might get into food, and they shouldn't have to; we need FDA to do its job and protect our health and welfare."

"FDA's own scientists showed that infant and toddler exposure to perchlorate increased after it was allowed in contact with food. But the agency completely ignored this crucial data when it refused to ban this toxic chemical in food packaging and processing equipment," said Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director for Environmental Defense Fund. "We're taking action today to protect children's healthy development."

"Rocket fuel chemicals shouldn't be in the food we feed to babies and toddlers. There is ample evidence that perchlorate causes developmental delays and impairs learning," said Melanie Benesh, Legislative Attorney for the Environmental Working Group. "It's unconscionable that the Trump FDA is ignoring the science and continues to allow perchlorate in food production and packaging. We're taking FDA to court to force the agency to do its job and protect kids from this toxic chemical."

BACKGROUND

Perchlorate is a chemical compound used in rocket fuel. It is also used as a coating agent in packaging and materials used to store and transport foods like cereal, flour and spices. Exposure to perchlorate is harmful to human health and especially dangerous for fetuses, infants and young children.  It has been linked to developmental delays, reduced growth, and impaired learning capabilities.

The groups contend that FDA ignored important evidence and relied on flawed reasoning in denying their petition to ban perchlorate in certain food packaging. They are asking the court to vacate the agency's petition denial, on the ground that it was 'arbitrary and capricious.' 

In 2014, a similar coalition of environmental groups petitioned FDA to revoke the agency's 2005 authorization for the use of perchlorate in certain food packaging. FDA denied the petition in 2017.

A copy of the complaint is available here.

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