Food Packaging Made With PFAS “Forever Chemicals” No Longer Sold in U.S., FDA Confirms

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals used in hundreds of products, including food packaging. These so-called “forever chemicals” are so present that they are even found inside our bodies despite their numerous adverse health effects. However, the FDA confirmed that harmful chemicals will be removed from food packaging products. 

FDA on food packaging without harmful PFAS  

On February 28, 2024, the FDA issued a statement saying that PFAS “are no longer being sold for use in food packaging in the U.S.” The statement added, “This FDA-led effort represents a positive step forward as we continue to reevaluate chemicals authorized for use with, and in, food.” 

Jim Jones, FDA deputy commissioner for human foods, added that this will remove the “major source of dietary exposure to PFAS.” Manufacturers will need around 18 months to go through the supplies of old food containers, though many eliminated the products before the FDA’s official confirmation. 

Jones called this a “win” for the public, achieved through “FDA research and leadership, combined with cooperation from industry.” 

The dangers of “forever chemicals” 

PFAS, a diverse group of artificial chemicals, are present in hundreds of everyday products. The researchers potentially linked exposure to certain levels of PFAS to cancer, immune system suppression, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, etc. 

PFAS are commonly known as “forever chemicals” because they break down slowly. They were created in the 1940s to make products resistant to oil, heat, stain, or water. No significant concerns were raised until the early 2010s, when researchers found that these chemicals were everywhere, including breast milk, umbilical cord blood, and water. 

While it is impossible to avoid PFAS altogether, there are some steps you can take to reduce your intake. One is replacing old pans with stainless steel, cast iron, glass, or ceramic alternatives. Keep in mind which products have the highest levels of PFAS, and some of them are cleaning products, water-resistant fabrics, personal care, and hygiene products, including some brands of dental floss, stain-resistant coatings, etc. 

“Step in the right direction”

Following the FDA’s announcement,  Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a pediatrics professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, told CBS News this was a “great step in the right direction.” However, Sathyanarayana reminded that these chemicals still exist in water and foods. 

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, at least 45% of tap water in the U.S. contains PFAS. Speaking to CNBC, Cheryl Norton, chief operating officer for American Water, cautioned that PFAS “undermines our immune system.” Norton hopes that in the near future, there will be a way to filter tap water further. 

Levi Strauss & Co., Victoria’s Secret, and Deckers were the first fashion brands to stop using PFAS, followed by Ralph Lauren and Patagonia. 

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