FDA Phases Out PFAS Used for Grease-Proof Food Packaging

Hands opening take-out containers with burgers

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Mar 1, 2024

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced the completion of its market phase-out of PFAS used in grease-proofing substances manufactured for food contact use.

In 2020, the FDA obtained commitments from manufacturers to cease sales of products involving food contact use, including packaging paper and paperboard. The FDA’s recent move marks the completion of these voluntary commitments. The agency also confirmed that additional manufacturers have voluntarily ceased sales of other food contact substances that contain different types of PFAS as grease-proofing agents.

Most companies that received notice of the phase-out reportedly removed products containing PFAS from the market prior to the 18-month deadline. The FDA is also working on methods to monitor the market for such food contact substances in food packaging.

PFAS have been found in grease-proofing papers often applied to food packaging to prevent the leaking of oil and grease, as well as for water resistance — PFAS were found specifically in fast-food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, take-out containers, pet food bags, and similar types of packaging. Some use cases for PFAS in food contact applications remain authorized by the FDA as the amount of PFAS present is not considered harmful in those cases.

The News Follows New EPA Ruling for PFAS Reporting

PFAS, commonly known as forever chemicals, were recently deemed a “chemical of special concern” by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In a recently-established rule, the EPA eliminated a previous exemption that allowed companies to avoid reporting on small concentrations of PFAS. Now, companies are required to report PFAS use at the same level as other chemicals of special concern, like mercury and lead.

The man-made chemicals have been linked to potential health concerns and do not break down easily in the environment or the human body. The EPA also maintains a strategy for creating national standards for PFAS and safeguarding communities from contamination.

PFAS have been found in a wide range of products, including nonstick cookware, water-resistant clothing, artificial turf, and more. The substance has been found in drinking water and wastewater streams, and many major companies, such as 3M, Chemours, and DuPont, have faced multi-billion dollar PFAS contamination settlements in the past years.

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