The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has established via Regulation (UE) 2020/685 new limits for perchlorate in some foods. This compound derived from chlorine is a pollutant that, in high quantities, could affect the thyroid gland, making it difficult for our body to absorb iodine.
As explained by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) in a recent publication, perchlorate reaches the food in two ways. It can originate naturally in the atmosphere and reach groundwater through rainfall; however, the most common way that this pollutant reaches food products is due to human activity, through nitrate fertilizers used in agriculture, industrial residues, or products used to make water drinkable.
The EFSA has analyzed the presence of this toxin in fruits and vegetables on different occasions since 2013. In 2014, the agency concluded that "continued dietary exposure to perchlorate could be of concern, especially for heavy users in the population's younger age groups that have mild to moderate iodine deficiency," the OCU stated. Furthermore, infants could also be affected by the intake of breast milk. For this reason, the European Authority has decided to further reduce its presence in food through greater control of the fertilization, cleaning, and disinfection processes of agri-food products and facilities.
As indicated in Regulation 2020/685, fruits and vegetables can have a maximum perchlorate content of 0.5 mg/kg, except kale and fruits and vegetables of the cucurbit family (melon, cucumber or pumpkin), whose limit is 0.10 mg/kg.
The OCU recalled the importance of cleaning and washing vegetables before consuming them in order to eliminate germs and the remains of pesticides and fertilizers. "People at home can use some common products, such as bicarbonate, vinegar, or bleach to clean their food as long as they use the right dose, without overdoing it," the organization stated. "The bottom line is that it's important that you rinse the vegetables well and dry them with kitchen paper or a clean cloth," they added.