FDA says food packaging made with PFAS 'forever chemicals' no longer being sold in US

Exposure to certain types of PFAS has been linked to serious health effects.

February 28, 2024, 5:57 PM

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that certain grease-proofing materials containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, "are no longer being sold for use in food packaging in the U.S."

"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," Jim Jones, deputy commissioner for Human Foods at the FDA, said in a press release.

PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been dubbed "forever chemicals" because they don't break down easily and persist in the environment for a long time. They are used across a variety of industries around the world: The diverse group of thousands of chemicals have been used to reduce friction in applications from cookware to aerospace technology.

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Exposure to various types of PFAS has been associated with serious health risks to humans.

Jones hailed Wednesday's announcement as a major "win" for public health thanks to the agency's research and leadership and industry-wide cooperation.

"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. The research FDA scientists conducted and published played a large part in helping the agency obtain commitments from manufactures to voluntarily phase out the use of these substances containing PFAS in paper and paperboard food packaging products," he said.

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The FDA, which helps safeguard the American food supply, has authorized certain PFAS for limited use in cookware, food packaging and food processing equipment.

In a previous interview with "Good Morning America," emergency medicine physician and medical toxicologist Dr. Stephanie Widmer said that "PFAS chemicals are essentially everywhere" and expressed concerns about exposure because "they are extremely difficult to regulate."

"Consuming and being exposed to small amounts of PFAS is unlikely to cause any harm, and just like anything else we are exposed to in the world, nothing is ever good in excess, moderation is key," Widmer said. "Toxic doses for PFAS have not been well established, although the EPA has set 'health advisory' thresholds in drinking water."

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As Jones stated Wednesday, the FDA previously pushed companies to halt sales of grease-proofing substances that contained certain PFAS back in 2020.

"Assessing progress of these efforts takes time. Various parts of the industry are implementing changes and there are lags in data reporting," he said. "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."

The FDA said in a statement on Wednesday that it "will continue to conduct our post-market safety evaluations to ensure that our risk determinations continue to be accurate and based in the current science."

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