By Abby Meyer, Jeffrey Parker and Khirin Bunker of Sheppard Mullin; and David Liu, PhD, Gavin Thompson, PhD and Elizabeth Miesner of Rambol
Federal and state agencies are considering restrictions or bans of individual ‘forever chemicals’ PFAS (Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds) or PFAS as a class, while at least 24 putative class actions targeting packaged goods purportedly containing PFAS were filed from January 1 to August 1, 2022 alone. So how widely used are PFAS in the food industry, and how can firms protect themselves from litigation? Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large class of diverse chemicals: more than 12,000 have been identified.* PFAS substances contain at least one fully-fluorinated carbon atom, which makes them persistent in the environment. PFAS are used to make products resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Until recently, they have been viewed as a useful component of food packaging materials. However, there is growing concern that PFAS will detrimentally impact human health by either migrating from packaging into food items and be ingested by consumers or ending up in landfills and migrating to soil.