In an article published on September 9, 2020, regulatory news provider Chemical Watch assesses the movement of US states, retailers, and restaurants away from the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging. The US state of New York is awaiting a final signature that would ban the substances in food packaging (FPF reported) following the states of Washington and Maine. Recently, Michigan has also seen a bill introduced into its state legislature aiming to do the same. A growing set of retailers and restaurants such as Chipotle, Taco Bell, and Ahold Delhaize have also introduced efforts to remove PFAS from specific packaging.
Mike Schade, director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ (SCHF) Mind the Store campaign (FPF reported) commented “I think we’re approaching a clear tipping point. I would say food retailers, food packaging brands and chemical manufacturers are facing a perfect storm of activity that is really sending clear market signals that we’re approaching the end of PFAS in food packaging.” However, industry association the American Chemistry Council (ACC) disagrees arguing that “PFAS provide a vital contribution to many products and in many cases there are not suitable alternatives.”
SCHF has been advocating for retailers to phase out PFAS uses and believes that the bans passed in Maine and Washington have led to market shifts towards innovative, PFAS-free alternatives. “We’ve seen a huge shift in the marketplace in the last two years since we passed our ban in Washington,” said Erika Schreder from SCHF. “That really kickstarted a shift in the market to where the manufacturers saw the market was changing and they needed to get out of PFAS and users started realizing they had a problem and started asking for PFAS-free products.” A representative from fiber-based packaging producer Ahlstrom-Munksjö told Chemical Watch that “grease-resistant products were manufactured prior to PFAS, [and] this is specifically where our expertise lies.” The company produces PFAS-free packaging with “grease resistance through mechanical means” instead of a reliance on chemicals.
Even with alternatives available on the market, PFAS manufacturers and industry associations have strongly advocated for their high performance. They say the alternatives cannot match this performance, and they also expressed concerns about creating regrettable substitutions if the entire PFAS class of chemicals is restricted. The article goes on to provide a list of some food packaging manufacturers that sell PFAS-free packaging. As more states consider legislative action against PFAS in both food packaging and drinking water and retailers implement their own phase out promises, time will tell if the trend to remove PFAS in food packaging continues.
Jon Kelvey (September 9, 2020). “Could a steady trickle of US states and retailers ditching PFASs in food packaging become a flood?” Chemical Watch
Jon Kelvey (September 9, 2020). “Michigan latest state to contemplate ban on PFASs in food packaging.” Chemical Watch
Jon Kelvey (September 17, 2020). “Wisconsin draft PFAS plan would limit use in paper products.” Chemical Watch
Julie Schneider (October 2, 2020). “Why a PFAS group restriction is crucial: lessons from human biomonitoring data.” CHEM Trust