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Prepare For Perclorate Problems

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, June 1, 2007

There are always issues bubbling just below the surface, not really causing a problem, but capable of doing so at any time. Our piece perchlorate Issue Is Percolating dealt with the risks for the industry related to perchlorate. Now the FDA has issued preliminary estimates of perchlorate dietary exposure and updated its backgrounder on perchlorate. It includes this section on produce:

Has FDA found perchlorate in produce (fruits and vegetables)?

Yes. Among 137 lettuce samples tested, FDA found perchlorate levels ranging from levels below the limit of detection to 71.6 ppb, with a mean of 8.06 ppb, in iceberg lettuce; levels of 1.00 to 27.4 ppb, with a mean of 10.6 ppb, in green leaf lettuce; levels below the limit of detection to 52.0 ppb, with a mean of 11.2 ppb, in red leaf lettuce; and levels below the limit of detection to 129 ppb, with a mean of 11.8 ppb, in romaine lettuce.

FDA also found perchlorate levels ranging from levels below the limit of detection to 195 ppb, with a mean of 13.7 ppb, in 73 tomato samples; levels below the limit of detection to 111 ppb, with a mean of 15.8 ppb, in 59 carrot samples; levels of 5.94 to 927 ppb, with a mean of 115 ppb, in 36 spinach samples; and levels of 0.52 to 718 ppb, with a mean of 28.6 ppb, in 48 cantaloupe samples. Results of perchlorate levels ranging from levels below the limit of detection to 238 ppb in 14 other types of fruit and vegetable samples are available on FDA’s website (See “2004-2005 Exploratory Survey Data on Perchlorate in Food”).

Domestic produce samples were collected at the grower or packing shed, while fruit juice and import samples were collected at retail establishments. For sample analysis, only the edible portion of fruit and vegetable samples were used to determine perchlorate levels. In addition, outermost leaves of each lettuce head were removed, similar to consumer handling prior to consumption, while the entire bunch of spinach was used to determine perchlorate levels.

FDA notes that, although a few samples of certain fruits and vegetables (e.g., spinach, carrot, tomatoes, and cantaloupe) contained relatively high perchlorate levels, these levels do not suggest a public health significance based on exposure estimates … that indicate that perchlorate intakes from consumption of these foods are below the RfD of 0.7 µg/kg bw/day recommended by NAS and adopted by EPA. Nevertheless, FDA plans to conduct additional research to identify potential sources of perchlorate contamination from locations where samples with relatively high perchlorate levels were grown. This research may provide the opportunity to learn and assess the route of perchlorate contamination in foods. This and other research could be used to develop practices for growers to reduce contamination, if needed

Although the FDA points out that “these levels do not suggest a public health significance,” it is not prepared to issue an all clear. The FDA explains that it “…plans to conduct additional research…This and other research could be used to develop practices for growers to reduce contamination, if needed.”

So there is no problem but there could be in the future so the FDA wants to be prepared. So should we all.

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