2011-2013 Perchlorate in Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Fruit and Vegetable Juice, Dairy-based Products and Infant Formulas

Executive Summary

The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As a part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to provide data in order to evaluate various foods for specific hazards.

The main objectives of these perchlorate targeted surveys were to generate baseline surveillance data on the levels of perchlorate in fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit and vegetable juice, dairy-based products and infant formulas available on the Canadian retail market, and to compare the perchlorate levels in these surveys to the 2010-2011 FSAP survey on perchlorates, where feasible.

Perchlorate is a chemical that occurs naturally in the environment (e.g., in some nitrate and potash deposits or formed in the atmosphere). It is also an environmental contaminant resulting from industrial processing of rocket propellants, explosives, road flares, fireworks, and automotive airbags. Since perchlorate readily dissolves in water, it can be taken up and accumulated by plants and may also be transferred to animals through the consumption of perchlorate-contaminated feed or water.

Human exposure to perchlorate occurs primarily through ingestion of food and water. At sufficiently high doses, perchlorate can interfere with the uptake of iodide by the thyroid gland which is required to produce hormones essential for metabolism and growth.

Over the two years of surveys, a total of 1426 samples, including 881 fresh fruits and vegetables, 225 fruit and vegetable juices, 233 dairy-based products and 87 infant formulas, were collected from Canadian retail stores and analyzed for perchlorate. Six hundred and sixty-three of these samples were collected between April 2011 and March 2012 and 763 samples were collected between April 2012 and March 2013.

Six hundred thirty-seven of the 1426 samples (45%) did not contain a detectable level of perchlorate. Overall, 44% of fresh fruit, 74% of fresh vegetable, 23% of fruit and vegetable juice samples, 60% of dairy-based products, and 56% of infant formula samples analyzed were found to contain detectable levels of perchlorate ranging from 2 to 2400 parts per billion (ppb). Within the commodity types analyzed in these surveys, the highest average perchlorate levels were found in cucumbers (106 ppb), leafy green vegetables (65 ppb) and tomatoes (57 ppb).

The prevalence of perchlorate and the perchlorate levels in dairy-based products, fresh fruit and vegetable, juice and infant formula samples analyzed in these surveys were generally comparable with those reported in the previous CFIA survey, unpublished Health Canada data and the scientific literature.

As no maximum level, tolerance, or standard has been established by Health Canada for perchlorate in food, compliance with Canadian regulations was not evaluated in this survey. All data generated were shared with Health Canada for use in human health risk assessments. Health Canada's Bureau of Chemical Safety determined that the levels of perchlorate found in these surveys were not expected to pose an unacceptable health risk and therefore no follow-up actions were needed.

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