Europe not reacting to Californian Teflon concerns

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

As California moves a step nearer to outlawing the use of the chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in food packaging, European regulators say they are not currently reassessing their own opinions on the chemical.

The European Commission told FoodProductionDaily.com that it was not currently aware of any discussions on use of the chemical relating to food safety, after ruling on its use as an emulsifier in Teflon back in 2005. Under its ruling, the chemical is cleared for use - under certain conditions - in food contact plastics, though member states can individually decide on its acceptance in coatings.

Bill approval

The comments come after Senate Bill 1313, which would ban PFOA and other perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in packaging, was yesterday passed by the California State Assembly. It will now be forwarded onto the senate for approval, before heading to state governor Arnold Schwarzeneger for approval.

If successful, from 1 January 2010, no person or company shall manufacture, sell or distribute any food contact substance that contains PFOA or precursors to the chemical, in any concentration exceeding 10 parts per billion in the state.

PFCS

PFOA is one of a number of substances that form part of PFCs family, which are used in stain and grease-proof​ packaging for products like microwave popcorn, sweets and candy, fast food and pizzas.

As part of its complaint, the bill claims that PFOA is considered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be a likely carcinogen and a chemical that induces breast tumours in animals.

European policy

In Europe, the Commission said that PFOA had already been reviewed by the European Food Safety Authority(​EFSA) back in 2005, as part of Directive 2007/19/EC, which relates to monolayer and multilayer structures that purely consist of plastic.

EFSA said that it had permitted the chemical for use in packaging, though only in repeated use articles that have been formed through high temperature sinter.

PFOA in individual markets

A spokesperson for the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) confirmed to FoodProductionDaily.com earlier this year 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 their production by the major US manufacturer 3M.

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