FDA Bans Three Toxic Food Packaging Chemicals

07.01.2016 -

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it will ban three perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) used in food packaging that have been linked to cancer and birth defects.

The ban, which will take effect on Feb. 1 comes in response to a petition filed by environmental protection and health advocates, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Food Safety, the Breast Cancer Fund, the Center for Environmental Health, Clean Water Action, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Children's Environmental Health Network, Improving Kids' Environment and Environmental Working Group (EWG).

EWG points out that the health watchdog’s action takes place more than ten years after the environmental advocacy groups first raised alarms about the substances and five years after US chemical companies stopped making the grease-resistant chemicals used, among other things, in pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, sandwich wrappers and other food packaging.

In 2005, EPA made voluntary agreements with DuPont, 3M and other chemical companies to phase out production and use of some PFCs. However, because this agency regulates chemicals in consumer products while the FDA has authority over chemicals in food, the phase-out did not remove the compounds from the FDA's list of substances approved for contact with food.

Nearly 100 related chemicals that may also be hazardous will remain on the market, EWG says, citing studies by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showing that PFCs contaminate drinking water for more than 6.5 million people in 27 US states.

Over the past decade, it adds, “chemical companies have introduced dozens of chemicals similar to those phased out under the EPA-led deal. The FDA has approved almost 100 other PFC compounds for use in food packaging.”