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FDA Says No To ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Food Packaging

Photo Courtesy FDA

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned food packaging materials containing per- and polyfluoroalkyls substances (PFAS). PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” take years to break down, harm the environment, and have been linked to serious health effects. 

The ban, announced in February, means that exposure to these chemicals in various types of food packaging, microwavable bags, paperboard containers, and pet food bags will be eliminated from the American market.

PFAS include thousands of chemicals, most of which resist oil, grease, water, and heat. They are super durable and are difficult to break down, thus the nickname “forever” chemicals. When they begin to slowly break down, they leech into the environment, building up in rivers, lakes, soil, and human bodies. 

These chemicals enter the body when people drink water or eat food exposed to PFAS during production. Exposure to such PFAS has been linked to renal disease, liver damage, thyroid disease, and breast cancer.

Photo Courtesy FDA

The FDA helps to safeguard the food supply by evaluating the use of chemicals that come into contact with food through packaging and storing. Banning PFAS highlights significant forward motion toward improved environmental and human health. 

“Today’s announcement marks the fulfillment of a voluntary commitment by manufacturers to not sell food contact substances containing certain PFAS intended for use as grease-proofing agents in the U.S.,” Jim Jones, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for human foods, said in a statement. 

“This FDA-led effort represents a positive step forward as we continue to reevaluate chemicals authorized for use with, and in, food,” he continued.

“It underscores an important milestone in the protection of U.S. consumers from potentially harmful food-contact chemicals.”

Photo Courtesy FDA

The ban has been in the making through incremental steps. In 2020, the FDA asked companies to voluntarily end the sale of grease-proofing substances on paper and paperboard food packaging that contain certain types of PFAS following a post-market safety assessment. 

In the past, the agency allowed certain PFAS to be used in packaging. However, the new ban is expected to eliminate the significant source of dietary exposure to PFAS quickly. Some companies indicated it could take more than a year to completely exhaust the market supply of products already on shelves, but these manufacturers are phasing out the packaging quickly.

The FDA expects the packaging to continue to disappear from American shelves.

Photo Courtesy Franki Chamaki“Assessing [the] progress of these efforts takes time. Various parts of the industry are implementing changes, and there are lags in data reporting,” Jones said in the statement. “However, we are encouraged that through collaboration and a shared interest in the health and welfare of the public, together with industry, we can achieve positive health outcomes.”


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