The North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) is disappointed with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement of its proposal to revoke the tolerances for residues of sulfuryl fluoride (SF) on foods.
Sulfuryl fluoride has been the only practical effective alternative to methyl bromide for controlling pests in mills. Methyl bromide is on a scheduled phase out due to environmental concerns. The milling industry has complied by cutting its use of that compound by about 90 percent over the last six years. This difficult achievement was
accomplished by cutting use wherever possible and filling in with sulfuryl fluoride only when absolutely necessary.
Typically a mill that needs to be fumigated would undergo such a sanitation treatment only once or twice a year. Before mills are fumigated they are emptied of grain and milled grain products to the maximum extent possible, as this aids in a better result and reduces the need for additional fumigations later. Very little, if any, wheat, corn or oats are directly treated with sulfuryl fluoride. Therefore the foods made from them cannot all contain residues. In the unlikely event that a food did contain fluoride residues, they would be at levels so low as to be negligible or even non-detectable.
The action EPA proposes will strain already precious food safety resources, with negligible benefits to public health. As acknowledged by EPA, use of sulfuryl fluoride results in a “tiny” contribution to fluoride exposure, and elimination of sulfuryl fluoride will not significantly decrease the fluoride exposure problems identified by the
agency. It would be far more effective to address the major sources of fluoride exposure.
The milling industry is committed to producing wholesome and nutritious grain foods in a sanitary environment. If EPA acts as it has proposed, we will work closely with EPA on an efficient phase-out schedule that doesn’t jeopardize that ability.
January 24, 2011