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Consumer Safety: US regulator ends use of ‘forever chemicals’ in food packaging

*The United States’ Food and Drug Administration announces that food packaging across the American country will no longer contain polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as ‘forever chemicals’, over adverse effects on hormone levels, reproductive health, high cholesterol, cancer, and a weaker immune system

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Stressing the toxic chemicals pose a number of health risks to consumers, the United States’ (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that food packaging across the country will no longer contain polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or “forever chemicals”.

ConsumerConnect reports the American country’s stated the toxic chemicals had been used in things, such as microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and fast food containers as a means of eliminating grease spills.

The FDA, however, noted the chemicals also pose a significant threat to consumers’ health, as they never degrade, but  contaminate drinking water, soil, air and food.

The regulator has directed that manufacturers to not use the said chemicals to sell food packaging that contains PFAS across the United States.

The agency further 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.

Jim Jones, Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods at FDA, said: “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.

“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 authorised for use with, and in, food.”

According to the regulator, States are leading the way, in that ahead of FDA’s announcement, a dozen states across the American country led the charge to get PFAS out of food packaging.

12 States enact phase-out of forever products

Twelve states have already enacted phase-outs of forever chemicals in food packaging, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, agency report said.

It was learnt besides, states have taken action to restrict the use of PFAS in carpets, rugs, cosmetics, firefighting foam, textiles, and more.

Melanie Benesh, Vice-President of Government Affairs at the Environmental Working Group commented: “States really deserve our gratitude for their leadership in regulating PFAS in food wrappers. “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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