The California State Assembly marked Earth Day with the approval of AB 1200 by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), legislation prohibiting the use of “forever chemicals,” known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in food packaging. The bill aims to reduce food and environmental contamination.
“Federal regulations on PFAS allow companies to self-certify that a chemical used in their food packaging is safe,” said Ting. “That’s not good enough for me – not when our health and environment suffer the consequences. Manufacturers should use safer alternatives so that our families aren’t ingesting harmful chemicals.”
PFAS, a class of roughly 9,000 man-made chemicals, have been linked to health problems, including cancer, hormone disruption, thyroid disease and vaccine interference. They are commonly added to food wrappers and containers to prevent grease and other liquids from leaking through. The term “forever chemicals” refers to their resistance to breaking down, making them persistent in the environment and human body. We’re eating PFAS with our meals when they come in food containers coated with these harmful substances. McDonalds, Taco Bell, Chipotle, Panera Bread, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are already phasing out PFAS-laced wrappers, boxes and the like, or have pledged to do so.
“The California Assembly has swiftly voted to protect its residents from toxic PFAS,” said Susan Little of Environmental Working Group, a co-sponsor of AB 1200. “Because of a broken federal chemical regulatory system, states are stepping up to protect the health of its citizens from hazardous chemicals added to food packaging. This law will protect Californians by reducing their exposure to PFAS in food.”
In addition, when those containers are composted, the environmental impacts are far-reaching with PFAS entering the food chain when the compost is applied to agricultural soil used to grow crops. Those hazardous chemicals also end up in drinking water and in our air. New York, Washington and Maine have enacted a similar law prohibiting the use of PFAS in food packaging.
AB 1200 also requires cookware manufacturers to disclose the use of PFAS and other hazardous chemicals in their products. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.