California bill to curb chemicals in grease-proof packaging

By Linda Rano

- Last updated on GMT

A bill that would ban the use of food packaging containing
perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA),
is working its way through the California legislature.

Senate Bill 1313 would require that from January 1st​ 2010 no person or company shall manufacture, sell or distribute any food contact substance that contains PFOS, PFOA, higher homologues, or precursors to these chemicals, in any concentration exceeding 10 parts per billion. Food manufacturers would therefore have to find alternative, non-toxic, for any packaging containing perfluorochemicals (PFCs) and their precursors, which are used in stain and grease-proof packaging for products like microwave popcorn, sweets and candy, fast food and pizzas. A statement issued by Senator Ellen Corbett, who introduced the bill last month, claimed that food packaging can be coated with perflourinated chemicals that, when heated, leach into the food product and break down into PFOA and PFOS, both of which are toxic. The bill says that FDA scientists have noted that food packaging represents the worst case scenario for PFCs to migrate into food. In one FDA study packaging released several hundred times more PFCs than cookware coated with substances like Teflon (PFOA is used in the making of Teflon). Recent studies have demonstrated the presence of PFOS and PFOA in more than 98 per cent of US citizens' blood and 100 percent of 293 newborns surveyed. The bill says that PFOA is considered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be a likely carcinogen and is considered to be a chemical that induces breast tumours in animals. Also, PFOA ad PFOS have been linked to impaired growth of babies in the womb. Senator Corbett said: "Despite the fact that most consumers believe the packaging surrounding their food is safe, the reality is that certain food packaging contains toxic chemicals that can cause harm to children's health and the environment. SB1313 will ban these toxic chemicals and protect Californians​." The bill stipulates that PFOS was removed from the market by the only US manufacturer in 2001 under pressure from the EPA. The EPA has also established a voluntary phase-out of certain perfluorochemicals, including PFOA, to come into effect in 2015. The act would add a chapter to the California Health and Safety Code, relating to product safety. PFOA in other markets ​ A spokesperson for the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) confirmed to FoodProductionDaily.com that PFOA is permitted for food packaging in that market. Amongst its uses it is an intermediate in the manufacture of stain, oil and water-resistant additives for some textiles, coatings and food contact papers. Although no indication was given as to whether the FSA plans any investigation into its safety, the agency is aware that the use of PFOS was stopped in the paper industry in 2004 following the voluntary cessation of production of PFOS by the major US manufacturer 3M.

Related topics: Regulation and safety

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