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IDFA Requests Agency Coordination to Fix Flawed Dioxin Assessment

Nov 02, 2011

In a letter sent last Friday to the heads of two federal agencies, IDFA warned that the Environmental Protection Agency's plans for releasing recommendations concerning chemicals known as dioxins would confuse consumers and could harm U.S. trade with global partners. IDFA asked the agencies to encourage EPA to pursue a scientific review of its recommendations and coordinate with other agencies to avoid actions that could undermine consumer confidence in the U.S. food supply.

"Any hasty action on this issue would be most regrettable as consumer confidence is hard to win, but easy to lose," said IDFA President and CEO Connie Tipton in the letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Commissioner Margaret Hamburg of the Food and Drug Administration.  

The term dioxin refers to a group of chemicals that are byproducts of natural and industrial processes involving combustion, such as forest fires, incinerators and backyard burning. They are introduced to animals through the air, soil and plants.

Although EPA estimates that 95 percent of dioxin intake comes through food, studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that exposure to dioxin from the environment and the food supply is very low and continues to decline. In fact, U.S. dioxin emissions from man-made sources have declined more than 92 percent since 1987.

EPA has been working to complete a comprehensive review of dioxin for more than 20 years and recently announced plans to release final conclusions detailing both hazard and exposure information. IDFA disagrees with EPA's anticipated approach for two reasons:

  • Contrary to National Academy of Science guidance, EPA assumes that any exposure to dioxin, including levels below amounts found naturally in the environment, will have negative health effects.
  • EPA plans to offer its recommendations in two sections: a non-cancer section followed by a cancer section. IDFA believes one complete document would incorporate the best available science and address cancer and non-cancer health risks.  

Contact Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs, at for additional information.

Read IDFA's letter here.

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