In a virtual workshop held on August 31, 2020, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) discussed and received public comments on food packaging containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in relation to them being identified as priority products under the state’s Safer Consumer Products program. DTSC had originally “determined that plant fiber-based food packaging containing any member of the class of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) meets the key prioritization criteria for listing as a Priority Product.” This is explained in a product-chemical profile that was published by the agency in July 2020 and is open for public comment until September 13, 2020 (FPF reported).

However, as reported by news provider Inside EPA, during the event a DTSC representative has commented that the DTSC may significantly reduce the range of packaging products included within the program’s scope. “When we get to rulemaking, there’s a good chance we will focus on one or more specific food packaging products,” the representative said. “But we may not cover the breadth that’s in the profile, but we may do more than one. So that will be determined in part by information we receive today and during this comment period.” While the agency later followed-up to try and clarify this statement, it is being seen as concerning by several health and environmental advocacy groups. The groups are worried that only including some and not all PFAS containing plant-fiber based food packaging in the program would provide consumers with a false sense of safety while encouraging businesses to simply switch from one PFAS-containing packaging to another.

In its presentation during the event, the agency posed a series of eight questions to stakeholders to help generate data for the agency to use in its decision making. Given that public exposure is one of the key criteria for identifying priority products under the program, some of the questions asked suggest that the agency could potentially choose to narrow the scope and focus on a few specific types of fiber-based packaging that have, for example, the largest market share. A final decision on which items to define as priority products is generally not expected before mid-2021.

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DTSC (August 31, 2020). “Public Workshop on Food Packaging Containing Perfluoroalkyl or Polyfluoroalkyl Substances.”

Curt Barry (September 1, 2020). “California Faulted Over Plan To Narrow Policy On PFAS In Food Packaging.” Inside EPA

Jon Kelvey (September 24, 2020). “Food packaging group warns California PFAS listing would hurt industry.” Chemical Watch