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Because pesticides on your food aren't bad enough

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

By Amy Rosenthal

Worried about your cantaloupe catching fire? You might not have to anymore! Your fruits and veggies may be doused in Deca, a flame retardant chemical and known neurotoxin.

How could a flame retardant get on my apples? The food industry uses plastic pallets made with the toxic chemical Deca to store certain fruits and vegetables. These pallets may go through a process called "hydrocooling," where they're submerged or water is sprayed over them to keep the produce fresh. As the water is reused, Deca leaching from the pallets can build up, eventually leaving residue on the food itself.

(Fun fact: two of the fruits likely to be hydrocooled - apples and peaches - are the two with the most pesticide residues, according to EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides. How's that for your daily serving of chemicals?)

What are the risks of Deca? Deca is a member of the family of flame retardants known as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers). PBDEs, which accumulate in the blood and tissue of people and wildlife, have been associated with disruptions in brain development and hormone systems. Two other types of PBDEs have been pulled from the market due to health dangers, and 10 state legislatures have proposed bans on Deca.

Is anyone checking that my food is toxic-free? The FDA has said that pallets made with Deca are "not authorized" for hydrocooling and that food with Deca residue would be considered "adulterated." Last week, EWG Senior Vice President Richard Wiles sent a letter to the FDA Commissioner urging her to investigate to see what's actually happening. No one knows for sure what these food companies are up to, but as Richard writes on EWG's Kid-Safe blog, "It's the FDA's job to find out."


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