NGOs say US FDA’s PFAS approvals for plastic food packaging highlight need for action


Environmental groups have strengthened calls for thorough regulatory review of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in food contact materials (FCMs) after discovering that the US FDA cleared several PFASs for plastic food packaging manufacture in the past decade.

The NGOs’ findings – reached through a Freedom of Information Act (Foia) request – follow the detection of PFAS contamination in fluorinated polyethylene containers, which prompted EPA and FDA investigations and the latter’s warning against unauthorised fluorination.

In a 12 August blog, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Green Science Policy Institute (GSPI) detailed their discovery of seven food contact substance notifications (FCNs), granted between 2002 and 2016, for four PFAS processing aids for plastic packaging such as bottles and wraps. Permitted at concentrations up to 2000 parts per million (ppm), the compounds “reportedly improve polymer extrusion, reduce build-up on the injection mould and improve surface roughness, among other technical effects”, the organisations said.

“While FDA has been focused on PFAS contamination from the environment and its use in paper packaging, it has been allowing PFAS-laden plastic to also contaminate the food supply without considering the cumulative effect of their dietary exposure on people’s health,” they said.

EDF, GSPI and other non-profits petitioned the agency in June to ban new PFASs and revisit already permitted ones by factoring in accumulating impacts from the chemical class.

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~sChemical Watch, 19 August 2021