Perchlorate shows up in almost all types of food tested by FDA, including foods made for and marketed to young children. Perchlorate is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that can harm fetal and child brain development.

How does it get into the food supply?

Understanding how perchlorate ends up in our food supply chain is an important step in being able to manage levels in food. There are three primary sources for perchlorate in food: 

  1. Plastic dry food packaging: Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of perchlorate as an antistatic agent in plastic packaging, the chemical can migrate from the packaging into food – whether it’s packaging for final products or bulk containers for raw materials, known as “super sacks”;
  2. Bleach: Degradation of hypochlorite bleach used to disinfect or wash produce and food handling equipment because perchlorate forms when bleach degrades; and
  3. Water: Water contamination from upstream industrial facilities or degraded bleach used to treat water.

Action is needed

Consumers are increasingly concerned about chemicals in their food. They want to know that the food they buy is better for their families and for the environment. This is especially important for younger consumers and new parents, who represent a growing market segment.

Managing perchlorate contamination is an opportunity for your company to be a safer food leader.

Opportunities to reduce perchlorate levels in products

Fortunately, there are opportunities to reduce the perchlorate levels in food.

  1. Require periodic testing of raw materials for presence of perchlorate to help you identify unexpected sources and to focus minimization efforts.
  2. Advise suppliers not to use plastic packaging or other food handling equipment that contains or is treated with perchlorate.
  3. Ask suppliers to adhere to proper bleach management procedures, such as those outlined in the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) guidelines. Key recommendations include making sure to use the oldest containers of bleach first, storing containers out of the sun, and storing containers for no more than a few months.
  4. Advise suppliers to ensure water used in products meet California’s 1 part per billion goal for perchlorate in drinking water, a threshold that should be achievable by responsible water utilities.

Key Chemicals of Concern in Food Packaging

EDF is committed to making food safer for all. Helping businesses tackle chemical contaminants in food is an important step in that journey. We will continue to recommend best-in-class policies and practices your company can use.

For details on the health impacts of Perchlorate please visit EDF’s Health page.

See our full list of of chemicals of concern in food packaging and food handling equipment.