Statement of CSPI Senior Scientist Lisa Lefferts

The decision by the Food and Drug Administration that it will consider withdrawing its approval of the ubiquitous toxic chemicals known as ortho-phthalates from use in food packaging and processing equipment is welcome news. The announcement is in response to a food additive petition filed by ten organizations, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Although not directly added to foods, ortho-phthalates are found in many, including meat, dairy products, infant foods, oils, and spices.

It doesn’t make sense to ban some ortho-phthalates from children’s toys, and phase them out of vinyl flooring, but still approve them for contacting food. Ortho-phthalates can cause reproductive and developmental effects. A serious concern is for males exposed before birth. Some may also cause cancer.

Many ortho-phthalates lack adequate safety studies, but all that have been tested for developmental and reproductive effects show a risk. None should be permitted for contact with food.