Governor Signs Ting Bills Targeting Harmful “Forever Chemicals” That Come Into Contact With Our Food

For immediate release:
Governor Signs Ting Bills Targeting PFAS Chemicals

Sacramento – With the Governor’s signature today on two bills by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), consumers will have less exposure to “forever chemicals,” known as PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They’re harmful and linked to health problems, including cancer, hormone disruption, thyroid disease and vaccine interference; yet they’re added to food packaging, cookware, and many other products we come into contact with on a daily basis.

“PFAS chemicals have been a hidden threat to our health for far too long. I applaud the Governor for signing AB 1200 and 1201, allowing us to target, as well as limit, some of the toxicants coming into contact with our food,” said Ting.

AB 1200 bans their use in food packaging, and cookware manufacturers must disclose the hazardous chemicals, including PFAS, used their products. PFAS is a class of roughly 9,000 man-made chemicals commonly added to food wrappers and to-go containers to prevent grease and other liquids from leaking through. They’re also used to make cookware nonstick. The term “forever chemicals” refers to their resistance to breaking down, making them persistent in the environment and human body. When food comes into contact with PFAS, people are essentially ingesting them.

“On behalf of all of the cosponsors of this groundbreaking legislation, we thank Assemblymember Ting for his outstanding leadership throughout the legislative process and Governor Newsome for signing AB 1200 into law,” said Nancy Buermeyer, senior policy strategist for the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCCP). “The enactment of the Safer Food Packaging and Cookware Act is an important step toward protecting Californians and our environment from toxic ‘forever’ PFAS in food packaging and, for the first time ever, providing information consumers need to choose safer cookware.” AB 1200 is cosponsored by the Center for Environmental Health, Clean Water Action, Environmental Working Group, National Resources Defense Council and BCCP.

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. New York, Washington and Maine have enacted a similar law prohibiting the use of PFAS in food packaging.

To make matters worse, PFAS-laced food containers sometimes end up in compost bins, causing contamination. When that now tainted compost is used to treat agricultural soil, crops absorb the chemicals, putting consumers in a position of unknowingly ingesting them. AB 1201 tightens the rules on what can be labeled “compostable” to ensure purity of the compost.

“Production of the high-quality compost that farmers demand cannot be compromised by contamination challenges from packaging. The new truth-in-labeling standards set by AB 1201 will be a game-changer for composters and local governments seeking to establish successful organics diversion programs where there is a desire to include compostable packaging,” said Neil Edgar of the California Compost Coalition, which sponsored the bill. AB 1201 will:

  • Ban products from being labeled “compostable” if they contain PFAS
  • Require products marked “compostable” to meet established performance standards; meet California Department of Food and Agriculture’s organic standards; and be certified by a third-party
  • Allows CalRecycle to adopt labeling regulations so consumers and composters can tell the difference between non-compostable and compostable products

Under AB 1200, the PFAS ban in food packaging takes effect January 1, 2023, while cookware disclosures begin the following year. AB 1201 won’t start until 2024 to give CalRecycle time to set up the certification process for what can be labeled compostable.