Perchlorate on fruits and vegetables

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Fruits and vegetables contaminated with perchlorate

Almost all types of fruit and vegetables can contain residues of the chemical perchlorate. In a recent research by the NDR consumer magazine “Markt”, almost every sample examined was contaminated with perchlorate. Considerable health effects are feared here, among other things because perchlorate inhibits the function of the thyroid gland. How the chemical, which is otherwise used as fuel in rockets and fireworks or as a medication for hyperthyroidism, gets onto food has not yet been conclusively clarified. Apparently, however, it is a problem that has been known for some time.

The perchlorate residues found on fruit and vegetable samples from several supermarkets are particularly critical, as these cannot be washed off and the chemical does not evaporate during cooking, reports the chemist and food analyst, Dr. Günter Lach, opposite the NDR consumer magazine. According to the experts, “an active ingredient that is present in a drug and is said to have an effect is completely incalculable in a food”, which is why perchlorate “has no business in food”. The residues of the chemical could have health consequences, especially for children, Dr. Günter Lach.

Almost every sample contaminated with perchlorate According to a report by the NDR, 17 samples from various countries of origin were purchased in discounters and supermarkets and at the weekly market for research by the consumer magazine “Markt” and then examined in the laboratory. The focus of the research was “among other things watermelons, zucchini and leaf salads,” reports the NDR. Laboratory analysis had found perchlorate in almost every sample, with "in three samples far more than the maximum amount recommended by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment" was found. It can be assumed that almost every type of fruit and vegetable can have perchlorate residues. How the contamination arises and what health risk it entails has so far been left open.

The problem of perchlorate contamination has been known for some time According to the NDR announcement, the consumer magazine has “documents that prove that the producers are aware of the problem.” They have already carried out independent tests and collected data on perchlorate. The result is a list that shows that almost every type of fruit and vegetable can be contaminated. "The problem has been known in the United States for around ten years," with the focus on drinking water, reports the NDR. Theoretically, perchlorate could also occur naturally under certain conditions, but there is currently no evidence that "the presence of perchlorate in fruits and vegetables can be explained by natural processes." and consumer protection (BMELV) told “Markt” that “the occurrence of perchlorate in food is a new problem” and “the responsible authorities are currently working intensively on clarifying the causes and taking appropriate measures”. Germany has also involved the EU Commission, "combined with the request for an assessment by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA," said the BMLEV. This step was necessary "because the discoveries of perchlorate in food cannot be limited to certain regions."

Fertilizers as a source of contamination? The operators of the discounters and supermarkets were also asked to comment by the NDR consumer magazine. In this, Edeka, for example, explained that the findings shown are taken very seriously. "We have contacted the respective producer associations and asked them to further intensify controls," the NDR quotes Edeka's statement. The discounter Lidl had informed the consumer magazine "Markt" that the "suppliers had been sensitized and informed about the danger of an unconscious entry of perchlorate in fruits and vegetables". However, as long as it remains unclear how the perchlorate gets into the food, avoiding such contamination remains difficult. However, the assumption expressed by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection against “Markt” that the source of the contamination could possibly be fertilizers offers a starting point that should be checked urgently.

Improved consumer protection required If in doubt, a ban on perchlorate in fertilizers should also be considered, according to the experts, given the increasing contamination of food. "There must be a very clear regulation here that substances such as perchlorate may no longer be contained in the products," explained Dr. Laugh. Everyone who gives food to consumers has a responsibility to protect consumer health. Food retailers must develop the appropriate pressure - on producers and suppliers of such fertilizers, so that in the future the rocket fuel will no longer be found on vegetables and fruit. So far, there is apparently hardly any way to be sure when eating fruit and vegetables that no perchlorate is ingested. According to the NDR consumer magazine, organic foods were less affected than conventional fruits and vegetables, but these were not stress-free either. (fp)

Image: Gabi Eder /

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