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NRDC Petitions FDA to Restrict the Use of Two Chemicals in Food Packaging

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and eight other organizations petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting various actions be taken concerning the use of perchlorate and long-chain perfluorocarboxylates in food packaging.

The perchlorate petition, dated October 15, 2014, specifically requests that FDA:

  1. Revoke its 2005 approval of "threshold of regulation" (TOR) No. 2005-006, which permits the use of sodium perchlorate monohydrate as a conductivity enhancer in the manufacture of antistatic agents in dry food packaging;
  2. Promulgate a new regulation under Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Part 189 explicitly prohibiting such use; and
  3. Remove potassium perchlorate as a permitted additive in sealing gaskets for food containers in existing 21 C.F.R. Part 177.1210.

The petition cites toxicity concerns and an underestimation of exposure to perchlorate, as reasons for the requests noted above. Specifically addressing the 2005 TOR for sodium perchlorate monohydrate in dry food packaging, NRDC claims that a flawed risk assessment resulted in an artificially low estimated daily intake (EDI) of the substance. The petition also claims that the 2005 TOR did not fully account for all potential uses of perchlorate (e.g., its use in reusable packaging for bulk ingredients) further contributing to the underestimated exposure level.

The long-chain perfluorocarboxylates petition, dated October 16, 2014, requests that FDA remove the clearance in 21 C.F.R. Part 176.170 for the use of long-chain perflurorcarboxylate oil and grease repellents in paper and paperboard. The petition cites recent studies that found that long-chain perfluorocarboxylates could harm fetal development and men's reproductive health.

In 2011, at FDA's request, three U.S. companies that had effective FCNs for perflurorcarboxylates voluntarily agreed to discontinue the sale and distribution of the chemical in the U.S. However, manufacturers overseas can still use long-chain perflurorcarboxylate in products—such as pizza boxes, sandwich wrappers, and other food packaging—and export them to the U.S based on the listing in 21 C.F.R. § 176.170(a)(5).

"While the shutdown of domestic production of these chemicals has minimized their use and most food product manufacturers may no longer rely on them, new overseas production in China and India could easily fill the void without FDA's knowledge," states NRDC in the petition.