In a bibliographic review article published on June 22, 2021, in the journal Foods, Arabela Ramírez Carnero and co-authors from the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain provide an overview on the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food contact materials (FCMs) and their migration into food.
Ramírez Carnero and colleagues summarized that PFAS “are still being used in FCM as fast-food wrappers, muffin packaging, baking paper, plates, and microwave popcorn bags.” The authors took a closer look at different factors influencing the migration of PFAS. According to the reviewed literature, a high-fat content, high sodium chloride concentrations, and a low pH of the food, as well as emulsified foods, favor migration, whereas migration decreases when the food has a high moisture content. Besides the food characteristics, also the use of the FCM can result in increased migration, such as is the case for high temperature and repeated use. Generally, PFAS of a shorter chain length will transfer more easily from the packaging into the food.
Popcorn bags and non-stick cookware were the focus of much of the reviewed PFAS migration research, and also where the highest levels of PFAS were reported to have been measured. The authors suggest that future studies on the topic also analyze kitchen utensils for repeated use. Furthermore, they point out options to reduce PFAS in food. Measures include the switch to non-fluorinated alternatives with barrier properties such as starch or polyvinyl alcohol and to coat cardboard and paper with plastic or aluminum to limit migration (FPF reported).
PFAS are widely used in paper and cardboard to provide the packaging with resistance to water, oil, and other fats. Some of the fluorinated substances have been associated with several adverse health effects resulting in regulatory efforts to reduce their use (FPF reported). Denmark has already banned the use of PFAS in paper and board (FPF reported), and multiple states in the US have implemented new restrictions on the substances for use in FCMs (FPF reported). Major fast-food chains have also recently started to voluntarily phase-out PFAS across their paper and board food packaging (FPF reported here and here).
Ramírez Carnero et al. (2021) “Presence of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Food Contact Materials (FCM) and Its Migration to Food.” Foods (published on June 22, 2021)