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Say Goodbye to PFAS Chemicals in Food Packaging: FDA
  • Posted February 28, 2024

Say Goodbye to PFAS Chemicals in Food Packaging: FDA

PFAS "forever" chemicals, increasingly linked to health risks, will no longer be added to food packaging handled by American consumers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday.

"Grease-proofing materials containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances [PFAS] are no longer being sold for use in food packaging in the U.S.," Jim Jones, the agency's Commissioner for Human Foods, said in a statement.

"This means the major source of dietary exposure to PFAS from food packaging like fast-food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, take-out paperboard containers and pet food bags is being eliminated," Jones noted.

PFAS were long used in food packaging because they resist grease, oil, water and heat, the FDA explained. However, there's mounting evidence that certain types of PFAS are tied to "serious health effects," the agency said.

According to the nonprofit National Resources Defense Council, "PFAS have now been linked to a wide range of health risks in both human and animal studies -- including cancer [kidney and testicular], hormone disruption, liver and thyroid problems, interference with vaccine effectiveness, reproductive harm and abnormal fetal development."

They're known as "forever" chemicals for a reason.

"The structure of PFAS means they resist breakdown in the environment and in our bodies," explained Eric Olson, the NRDC's senior strategic director of health and food. "Second, they move relatively quickly through the environment, making their contamination hard to contain. Third, for some PFAS, even extremely low levels of exposure can negatively impact our health.”

According to Jones, the agency's efforts to ban PFAS chemicals from food packaging stems from solid science and involved the cooperation of industry.

"In 2020, the FDA engaged companies to cease sales of grease-proofing substances that contain certain types of PFAS following our post-market safety assessment," Jones said. "The research FDA scientists conducted and published played a large part in helping the agency obtain commitments from manufacturers to voluntarily phase out the use of these substances containing PFAS in paper and paperboard food packaging products."

However, the NRDC stressed that PFAS chemicals are added to much more than just food packaging.

Any clothing that is advertised as waterproof or stain-resistant, for example, could contain toxic PFAS.

"Generally, you're better off assuming that something does contain PFAS, particularly if you find keywords like “waterproof,” “stain-repellent,” or “dirt-repellant” on the tag," the NRDC said.

Furniture, mattresses and other home goods often contain PFAS, as well, the NRDC said.

"Everything from your mattress pad and umbrella to your cosmetics and dental floss may be treated with PFAS, leaving families vulnerable," the NRDC said. "Children in particular, who are more likely to put PFAS-treated products into their mouths, are at higher risk. "

"The reality is, we need to take action on the full class of these toxic “forever chemicals” to clean them up, phase them out and then ban them for good," the organization added.

More information

Find out more about PFAS chemicals at the Environmental Protection Agency.

SOURCES: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, Feb. 28, 2024; National Resources Defense Council

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