More than 100 groups from across the country urge Congress to ban toxic PFAS in food packaging; groups cite research showing links between exposures to PFAS and a wide range of health problems, such as cancer and immune system harm

Sample article from our Foodservice Industry

July 20, 2022 (press release) –

Federal ban would protect more people and communities from toxic exposures to PFAS “forever chemicals” that can cause cancer and immune system harm 

Currently 11 states and 22 retailers have policies that ban PFAS in food packaging

More than 100 environmental health-focused groups from across the country sent a letter urging Congress to ban PFAS in food packaging by passing the Keep Food Containers Safe From PFAS Act —which is currently included as a Senate amendment in FDA user fee legislation and under negotiation by the House and Senate. Addressed to Chair Patty Murray, Ranking Member Richard Burr, Chairman Pallone, and Ranking Member Rodgers, the letter was sent on June 29 by groups including Toxic-Free Future, Clean Cape Fear, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Consumer Reports, PfoaProject NY, Clean Water Action NJ, and Great Lakes PFAS Action Network, among others. The Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act will ban the use of PFAS “forever chemicals” (perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances) in food packaging.

The letter states

“…Consumers should not have to worry that the food they are eating is wrapped in something that contains dangerous chemicals. We strongly urge you to maintain the Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act in the final version of the FDASLA bill.” 

“Our lunch should never come with a side of ‘forever chemicals.’ We are glad to see bipartisan support in the HELP Committee for action to end the unnecessary use of this dangerous pollutant,” said Liz Hitchcock, director of Toxic-Free Future’s federal policy program, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. “The best way to stop PFAS from contaminating our bodies and our environment is to end its use in everyday products like food packaging. This common sense provision will take PFAS off the menu—we call on Committee leaders on both sides of Capitol Hill to include it in the final FDA package.”

“Despite the well known dangers of PFAS, not enough is being done to reduce or eliminate its use,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports. “It is time for Congress to take every measure it can to eliminate these chemicals in consumer products, and maintaining the bipartisan Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act in the final FDASLA bill would represent a significant step forward.”

The federal bill would protect more people and communities from toxic exposures to PFAS, which can cause damaging health impacts such as cancer and immune system harm. For more information, read the full letter including the list of signatures

Bipartisan majorities in 11 states, covering approximately 28% of the US population, have already adopted state policies that ban PFAS “forever chemicals” in food packaging. These include: CA, CO, CT, HI, MD, ME, MN, NY, RI, VT, and WA. 

“This is the forever chemical, and it’s already a problem in water bodies across New Jersey,” said Amy Goldsmith, Clean Water Action New Jersey Director. “Congressman Pallone, you’ve been our champion on environmental issues for decades and we’re counting on you to get this major health protection over the finish line.”

“Thanks to Senator Murray’s leadership, we can extend protections from PFAS that were first put in place in Washington state to the rest of the country. Senator Murray has long been a champion for children’s and women’s health, and getting PFAS out of food packaging will help get these toxic forever chemicals out of breast milk,” said Laurie Valeriano, executive director of Toxic-Free Future, headquartered in Washington state.  

“We simply can’t afford one more drop of PFAS. North Carolinians are spending millions to remove forever chemicals from our drinking water. They don’t belong in our food supply. There is no justifiable reason to continue using PFAS in food packaging—these chemicals are toxic at trace amounts and our children deserve better,” said Emily Donovan, Co-Founder of Clean Cape Fear.

“There’s a reason states like NY have banned PFAS from food packaging—eating these toxins is no better than drinking them, which has already caused a public health crisis,” said Loreen Hackett, Founder of PfoaProject NY.  “Our families in already contaminated communities like Hoosick Falls can ill afford additional bioaccumulation that can lead to serious, devastating long-term health effects, particularly in our children. We drank PFAS for decades—we certainly don’t want to eat PFAS too. Banning this use is clearly a logical next step to protect the health of all our families.”

“Michigan taxpayers spend millions every year to find and address PFAS contamination in our water, land, wildlife, and our bodies and that cost will continue until leaders make the decisions needed to reduce contamination,” said Sandy Wynn-Stelt, co-chair of the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network. “The best way to reduce our exposure and protect future generations is to ‘turn off the tap’ and banning PFAS in all food packaging is one of many ways to do this.” 

 “Everyone deserves access to food packaging free from health harms associated with toxic ‘forever’ PFAS, including increased risks of breast and other cancers, birth defects, hormone disruption, kidney and liver damage, and thyroid disease,” said Lisette van Vliet, Senior Policy Manager for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “States, including California, have led the way, but their laws protect less than 30% of people living in the U.S. Congress must act to remove this source of exposure by prohibiting PFAS in food packaging to protect the entire country.”

Additionally, dozens of major retailers have adopted safer chemicals policies to reduce or eliminate PFAS in key product sectors, according to the annual Retailer Report Card published by Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program. In response to TFF’s Mind the Store program and state policy mandates, there are currently 22 retailers selling food or food packaging that have announced steps to reduce or eliminate PFAS in food packaging at more than 140,000 stores worldwide including Burger King, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Whole Foods Market, among others.

PFAS BACKGROUND

Chemical companies sell PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) for application to paper and textiles as stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proofing treatments. A growing body of scientific research has found links between exposures to PFAS and a wide range of health problems including a weaker immune system, decreased vaccine response, cancer, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. PFAS are often referred to as “forever” chemicals because they are not known to break down in the environment and can easily move through soil to drinking water. With remarkable persistence and mobility, PFAS have become global pollutants that threaten the health of people and wildlife. 

2020 report by Toxic-Free Future found major fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s likely serve up toxic PFAS with some of their most popular takeout foods. A 2018 report also indicated the presence of PFAS in food packaging at top grocery store chains. A recent peer-reviewed study by Toxic-Free Future found PFAS in 100% of breast milk samples tested and that newer PFAS build up in people. And Toxic-Free Future’s 2021 investigative report revealed that a PFAS manufacturing facility is a major source of both PFAS pollution and ozone-depleting chemicals that contribute to health problems and climate change.

State governments are taking legislative and regulatory actions to phase out PFAS in products to prevent contamination in favor of safer alternatives. For example, laws in ME and WA have given state agencies authority to ban PFAS in a wide range of products. Eleven states (CA, CO, CT, HI, MD, ME, MN, NY, RI, VT, and WA) have enacted state bans on PFAS in food packaging. Five states including CA, CO, ME, MD, and VT have adopted restrictions on PFAS in carpets, rugs, and aftermarket treatments and regulatory action is pending on these products and other home textiles (e.g. upholstery, bedding) in CA and WA. CO adopted restrictions on indoor and outdoor furniture as well as oil and gas products. Eleven states including CA, CO, CT, HI, IL, ME, MD, NH, NY, VT, and WA have put in place bans on the sale of firefighting foam containing PFAS.

Retailers are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to reduce or eliminate PFAS in key product sectors including textiles, according to the annual Retailer Report Card published by Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program. In response to TFF’s Mind the Store program, 22 retailers selling food or food packaging have announced steps to reduce or eliminate PFAS in food packaging at more than 140,000 stores worldwide including Burger King, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Whole Foods Market, and other major retailers.

TOXIC-FREE FUTURE 
Toxic-Free Future (TFF) is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that advances the use of safer products, chemicals, and practices through research, organizing, advocacy, and consumer engagement to ensure a healthier tomorrow. Safer Chemicals Healthy Families is a Toxic-Free Future program dedicated to achieving strong federal policies that protect the public from toxic chemicals. Mind the Store is a Toxic-Free Future program that challenges retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives, and scores major retailers on their safer chemicals policies in an annual Retailer Report Card.

CONSUMER REPORTS 
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit member organization that works side by side with consumers for truth, transparency, and fairness in the marketplace.

CLEAN WATER ACTION
Clean Water Action’s mission is to protect our environment, health, economic well-being and community quality of life. CWA organizes strong grassroots groups and coalitions, and campaigns to elect environmental candidates and to solve environmental and community problems.

CLEAN CAPE FEAR
Clean Cape Fear is a grassroots community action group working to restore and protect our water quality, as well as spotlight deficiencies in governmental regulations that adversely impact our right to clean water. We formed in June 2017 after learning Chemours, formerly DuPont, dumped large quantities of PFAS into the Cape Fear River—our primary source for drinking water. We are committed to fighting Chemours, and holding our elected officials accountable.

GREAT LAKES PFAS ACTION NETWORK
The Great Lakes PFAS Action Network (GLPAN) is a coalition centered and driven by people impacted by toxic PFAS pollution.

PFOAPROJECT NY
PfoaProject NY is an impacted citizen run site on a mission to spread awareness of toxic PFAS, and an allied org of the NY JustGreen Partnership as well as the National PFAS Contamination Coalition.

BREAST CANCER PREVENTION PARTNERS
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) is the leading national science-based, policy and advocacy organization focused on preventing breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation. Through scientific translation, education, legislative advocacy and corporate accountability campaigns, BCPP occupies a unique niche at the nexus of environmental health, women’s health and breast cancer prevention. 

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MEDIA CONTACT

Stephanie Stohler
Communications Director
sstohler@toxicfreefuture.org

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