The Scottish non-governmental organization Fidra has published a report on measuring per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in fiber-based food contact materials (FCMs) sampled from major UK supermarkets and restaurants. The organization collected 92 samples of FCMs between October and November 2019 from 41 UK take away restaurants and 51 supermarkets. This included packaging such as bakery bags, pizza boxes, takeaway bags, and molded fiber takeaway boxes. All samples were first screened using droplets of olive oil to see if spherical droplets occur, as this can be interpreted as pointing to the likely presence of a PFAS lining. 20 of the collected samples tested positive (i.e., where spherical droplets did form) and were subsequently sent for laboratory analysis to determine total organic fluorine content. A concentration of 10 µg/dm2 dry weight (dw) was used to distinguish between background contamination and the addition of PFAS. The testing revealed products containing PFAS present in 8 of 9 major UK supermarkets and in all of the takeaway restaurants tested. 18 of the 20 tested samples had fluorine concentrations higher than background levels, ranging from 19.3 µg/dm2 dw in one of the takeaway bags, to 3,480 µg/dm2 dw in a molded fiber takeaway box. The highest PFAS content was consistently found in molded fiber takeaway boxes.
The study concludes that PFAS are clearly present in food packaging on the UK market with a widespread use among product types. The authors “recommend individuals looking to lower their exposure to PFAS and minimize their environmental impact avoid the unnecessary use of disposable food packaging, favoring reusable containers wherever appropriate.” Further they recommend “supermarkets and takeaway outlets act towards phasing PFAS out of food packaging,” that “compostability standards lower their accepted PFAS content to no more than what can be considered background contamination,” and for group-based chemical legislation to prevent the addition of PFAS to food packaging.
Fidra (February 11, 2020). “Forever Chemicals in the Food Aisle.”
Julie Schneider (February 11, 2020). “New investigation finds harmful PFAS chemicals in UK food packaging.” CHEM Trust
Chemical Watch (February 13, 2020). “Use of PFASs ‘widespread’ in UK food packaging, report finds.”
Chemical Watch (February 9, 2021). “UK public calls for supermarkets to take voluntary action on “Forever Chemicals”, PFAS, in food packaging.”
Fidra (February 11, 2020). “Forever chemicals in the food aisle: PFAS content of UK supermarket and takeaway food packaging.” (pdf)