PFAS in Food Packaging: Get Ready for New Regulations

By Thomas Lee, John Kindschuh, and Elyse Voyen April 29, 2022, 4:00 AM

Have you ever wondered why your French fry box doesn’t disintegrate, or your burger wrapper doesn’t turn into a soggy mess?

The answer is a family of several thousand chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Certain PFAS compounds are incredibly effective at repelling water and oils (think fat and grease) and have been used in a wide range of consumer products including food packaging.

However, based on concerns about the impacts that certain PFAS compounds can have on human health and the environment, both the federal government and states have begun regulating the presence of these compounds in food packaging. For businesses that manufacture or use food packaging, it is important to understand the current regulatory environment.

Proposed Federal and State Legislation

The bi-partisan Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act of 2021 was introduced in both the House and Senate in November 2021, and has been referred to committees in both chambers.

The relatively short bill would amend Section 301 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 331) to prohibit the “introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of food packaging containing intentionally added PFAS.”

Notably, within the past two weeks, both Chick-fil-A and Restaurant Brands International —which owns Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes —announced that they will eliminate PFAS in food packaging within the next several years.

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