In an article published on November 25, 2019 by Civil Eats, reporter Tom Perkins reviews the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging, specifically in molded fiber and paper materials. The piece focuses on presenting the food packaging industry’s response, and the increasing awareness about the far-ranging scale of the issue. When U.S.-based fiber food packaging manufacturer World Centric discovered the lining of their products was preventing its biodegradability due to containing PFAS, they were surprised and began trying to find solutions. Perkins explains that this is one example of how the packaging industry as a whole has become part of a larger effort to remove PFAS from the entire food supply, which also includes drinking water as a source.
In the past few months, U.S. state and federal government efforts to increase research into effects and alternatives have also expanded (FPF reported), and a Hollywood film about PFAS contamination (titled Dark Waters) was released in theatres in the U.S. this week. “That shows how much more momentum and visibility there is around the issue than there was even two years ago,” said Sarah Doll from the non-governmental organization Safer States. “The fact that it’s becoming a high-profile issue is a big deal, and there are some steps in the right direction.”
A slew of studies and investigations over the past few years have identified the presence of PFAS in supermarket food packaging (FPF reported) and compostable take-away food packaging in restaurants (FPF reported), among others. A toxicologist from the U.S. state of Michigan is even reported to have admitted that they suspect PFAS to be present in dairy cows, but they chose not to test the milk for fear of putting farmers out of business. Overall, the article comments “it appears that the landscape is changing rapidly” and the market demand for PFAS alternatives may soon be significant.
The switch to non-PFAS alternatives is just one of the ongoing challenges, the other is to remove the existing PFASs already in the environment. Christy McGillvray is the director of the Sierra Club of Michigan. In a statement, she commented that “some individuals and companies have made obscene amounts of money off of poisoning the planet and they are the ones that should be responsible for cleaning this up.” Looking forward, she thinks “we need a regulatory system that forces companies to prove that what they’re putting into the market is safe instead of forcing us to prove that we’re sick before doing anything.”
Tom Perkins (November 25, 2019). “The Packaging Industry Takes on PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ in our Food Supply.” Civil Eats