FDA puts an end to forever chemicals used in food packaging


The toxic chemicals pose a number of health risks to consumers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that food packaging across the country will no longer contain per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or “forever chemicals.” 

The toxic chemicals have been used in things like microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and fast food containers as a means of eliminating grease spills. However, they also pose a significant threat to consumers’ health. Because they never degrade, the chemicals contaminate drinking water, soil, air and food. 

Now, the FDA says that manufacturers will no longer sell food packaging that contains PFAS in the United States. The agency explained that it could take 18 months before all PFAS-contaminated products are off of shelves, though many have already been taken out of circulation. 

“This [announcement] means the major source of dietary exposure to PFAS from food packaging like fast food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, take-out paperboard containers, and pet food bags is being eliminated,” said Jim Jones, deputy commissioner for human foods at the FDA. 

“Today’s announcement marks the fulfillment of a voluntary commitment by manufacturers to not sell food contact substances containing certain PFAS intended for use as grease-proofing agents in the U.S. This FDA-led effort represents a positive step forward as we continue to reevaluate chemicals authorized for use with, and in, food.” 

States are leading the way

Prior to the FDA’s announcement, a dozen states across the country led the charge to get PFAS out of food packaging. 

So far, 12 states have already enacted phase-outs of forever chemicals in food packaging: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. 

On top of that, states have taken action to restrict the use of PFAS in carpets, rugs, cosmetics, firefighting foam, textiles, and more. 

“States really deserve our gratitude for their leadership in regulating PFAS in food wrappers,” said Melanie Benesh, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. “While the FDA’s phase-out is a step forward, it falls short. State bans on PFAS in food packaging are already in full force, surpassing the federal mandate. Until June 2025, PFAS-laden products could continue to line store shelves.” 

The risks of forever chemicals

The biggest risk of PFAS comes from the fact that they never fully leave the environment. Because of this, consumers come into contact with the chemicals from a variety of sources, and exposure poses a significant risk to health. 

Research has shown that exposure to PFAS can affect hormone levels and reproductive health, while also increasing the risk of obesity, high cholesterol, cancer, and having a weaker immune system. 

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