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Food Safety

The perchlorate ion (ClO4 -) is very stable in water, and its salts are highly soluble in water. Perchlorate occurs naturally in the environment, in deposits of nitrate and potash, and can be formed in the atmosphere and precipitate into soil and groundwater.

It also occurs as an environmental contaminant arising from the use of nitrate fertilizers and from the manufacture, use and disposal of ammonium perchlorate used in rocket propellants, explosives, fireworks, flares and air-bag inflators and in other industrial processes.

Perchlorate can also be formed during the degradation of sodium hypochlorite used to disinfect water and can contaminate the water supply. Water, soil and fertilizers are considered to be potential sources of perchlorate contamination in food.

Following initial findings of perchlorate in fruits and vegetables produced in European Union, a more extensive monitoring indicated that the presence of perchlorate in fruits and vegetables is more widespread than initially expected.

From the investigations, evidence was provided that the use of certain fertilizers containing high levels of perchlorate is an important contributor to the presence of perchlorate in fruits and vegetables.

However, other sources may also contribute to the presence. Further investigations are needed to have a better view of the different sources of contamination of food, in particular fruits and vegetables, with perchlorate.

The non-harmonised enforcement approach as regards the presence of perchlorate in food, in particular fruits and vegetables have caused some tension in the market.

It was therefore appropriate in 2013, to agree on a common provisional enforcement approach for the intra-Union trade for the period awaiting the availability of the EFSA opinion.

This common provisional enforcement approach was agreed at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health on 16 July 2013. It is to be noted that the agreed levels are applicable on the edible part of the food concerned.

On 30 September 2014 EFSA adopted a scientific opinion on perchlorate: Scientific Opinion on the risks to public health related to the presence of perchlorate in food, in particular fruits and vegetables

Based on the outcome of the EFSA opinion, the values as reference for intra-Union trade have been reconsidered, taking into account recent occurrence data and applying the principle that these levels should be set as low as reasonably achievable applying good practices.

These levels were endorsed by a very large majority of the delegations in the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed on 10 March 2015 and were updated at the meeting of the Standing Committee on 23 June 2015.

These levels apply from 16 March 2015 (except the levels for herbal and fruit infusions which apply from 1 July 2015) and the levels agreed at the Committee on 16 July 2013 are no longer valid.

On 29 April 2015, the Commission Recommendation 2015/682 (EU), on the monitoring of perchlorate in food (including drinking water) in 2015 (and 2016) was adopted.

During the course of 2016, the setting of maximum levels for perchlorate in food/certain foods will be considered, based upon the outcome of the scientific opinion and monitoring data generated in execution of the Commission Recommendation (and other recent monitoring data, i.e. data generated after 1 September 2013).

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