How Companies Can Step Up on Safer Food

Jan 11, 2019 8:30 AM ET

How companies can step up on safer food

By Boma Brown-West

Even if you haven’t heard of perchlorate, chances are that you probably have eaten it. Perchlorate is a chemical used in plastic packaging and food handling equipment for dry food like cereal, flour, and spices to reduce the buildup of static charges.

Unfortunately, it’s a well-known endocrine-disruptor that can migrate from packaging into our food. Perchlorate impairs the thyroid’s ability to make a hormone which is essential to brain development and therefore can harm the developing brain of a fetus or infant. It is particularly concerning that pregnant women and children are likely eating food contaminated with the chemical.

A 2016 study from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that our food is pervasively contaminated with perchlorate. And packaging isn’t the only source of this contamination. The chemical can also get into food from the degradation of hypochlorite bleach (used as a disinfectant in processing) and from contaminated water.

Steps for companies to take to reduce perchlorate

EDF is working to make food safer for all by urging corporate leaders to improve the safety of food additives and pushing policymakers to modernize the regulatory system. Through our Behind the Label initiative, we are committed to providing resources to make it easier for companies to lead on safer additives.

Knowing the clear risks associated with perchlorate in food, how can businesses take steps to reduce levels of the chemical in their products? EDF has identified the following key opportunities:

  • Avoid packaging or food handling equipment containing perchlorate. Periodically test raw materials for the chemical.
  • Improve bleach management. Limiting the degradation of bleach will reduce perchlorate formation and make it a more effective disinfectant.
  • Ensure water used in products meets California’s 1 part per billion guidance for perchlorate in water.

New materials provide critical insight into achieving safer food

Consumers are increasingly concerned with chemicals in food, and they are demanding safer options of food manufacturers. Corporate leaders want to answer the call.

That’s why EDF has developed resources for businesses and consumers on perchlorate:

  • Check out our new video explaining the basics on perchlorate in food;
  • Explore the EDF+Business Behind The Label resources to see more information about how businesses can reduce perchlorate levels in their products;
  • And learn more about the health impacts and what we’re doing to ban perchlorate in food.

We also encourage companies to communicate progress on reducing chemicals of concern like perchlorate to their consumers. By demonstrating a commitment to offer safer food, companies can build trust with consumers, mitigate risk and exercise sustainability leadership in the marketplace.

Get more of the details through our Behind the Label initiative, and stay tuned for more resources on safer food additives.