Eight nonprofit groups throughout the environmental, health and consumer industries petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known as “forever chemicals” due to their longevity in the human body and the environment. Forever chemicals have been linked to health problems ranging from high cholesterol to cancer.
The petition stated that the “scientific evidence showing widespread harm to health, especially to children, from the most studied forms of PFAS is overwhelming. And, the more PFAS are studied, the more we learn that substances misleadingly touted by the chemical industry as safer forms of PFAS are linked to harm and contamination.”
Dr. Maricel Maffini, scientist and co-author of the petition, said the “FDA needs to shut the door, permanently, on PFAS in food and food packaging. The agency has a poor track record when it comes to evaluating the safety of these chemicals and taking action. We think it’s past time for the FDA to follow the science and put the public’s health first.”
The Petition’s Requests to the FDA
The petition was written by eight nonprofit agencies– Environmental Defense Fund, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety Consumer Federation in America, Consumer Reports, Defend Our Health, Environmental Working Group, Green Science Policy Institute, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, and League of Conservation Voters.
The petitioners made the following requests to the FDA:
- Revoke all food-contact authorizations for PFAS
- Determine if other chemicals allowed to touch food based on companies’ certification of their safety rather than the agency’s review have the same characteristics as PFAS
- Ban PFAS in packaging or food-handling equipment
The FDA said that it will review the petition.
Where are Forever Chemicals Found?
PFAS are used in the food industry to make paper and paperboard that come into contact with food and water. Products that contain PFAS are also grease-resistant.
Forever chemicals can also be found in
- Food packaging materials
- Plastic bottles
- Disposable bowls and plates
- Burger wrappings
- Popcorn bags
- Pet food bags
- Household products
- Firefighting foam
The EPA and PFAS
PFAS are likely to be the focus of several parts of the federal government in the Biden administration. In President Biden’s budget proposal to Congress, he suggested $75 million in funding for PFAS toxicity studies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will likely play a prominent role in the future of PFAS regulations.
The EPA launched a new intra-agency advisory body on forever chemicals in April 2021 to help mitigate the effects of and reduce pollution from PFAS.
The advisory board will be led by the agency’s Office of Water and the New England regional office to determine the best way to use the agency’s “authorities, expertise and partnerships” to address PFAS due to how long they last in the human body and the environment. The board will develop a new multi-year strategy by reviewing all ongoing actions proposing modifications and identifying new strategies and priorities.
The EPA is also considering designating PFAS as hazardous substances and setting enforceable limits for forever chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Corporate Responses to Forever Chemicals
McDonald’s Corp., Wendy’s Co., Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., and Whole Foods Market, Inc., are among at least 15 companies that have recently announced policies to phase PFAS out of the packaging they use or sell with their products.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. has eliminated PFAS from disposable bowls used in the U.S. and Canada and targets removing PFAS from disposable bowls in Europe by the end of this quarter. In April 2021, Wendy’s announced its goal of removing PFAS from its to-go bags, sandwich wrappers, fry cartons, and other “consumer-facing” packaging in the U.S. and Canada by the conclusion of the year. McDonald’s has excluded some PFAS from food packaging since 2008 and is working toward removing all fluorinated compounds from packaging used globally by 2025.
Office Depot, LLC and Koninklijke Delhaize NV (the company that owns grocery stores and food delivery services like Food Lion, the Giant Co., and Fresh Direct) are among the companies that still use PFAS.
How GoldenbergLaw Can Help You
If you or a loved one suffered an injury or been diagnosed with cancer after exposure to forever chemicals, contact the Toxic Exposure Attorneys at GoldenbergLaw. We have more than 30 years of experience providing our clients with the Gold standard of advocacy. Contact our team today!