Assembly Votes to Evaluate Banning Harmful Chemicals in Food Packaging

Thursday, June 1, 2017

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – California took the first step to remove dangerous carcinogenic chemicals from fast food wrappers and other food packaging following a vote in the State Assembly.  Assembly Bill (AB) 958, by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), passed out of the Assembly on a 42-25 vote and moves to the State Senate for review.

“Dangerous chemicals should not be wrapped around our food, especially what we give to our kids,” said Ting.  “Food convenience and food safety should not be competing values for those of us with lives on the go.  It’s time for California to assess chemicals that our families are ingesting so that they cannot further damage our health and the environment.”

AB 958 requires the Department of Toxic Substances Control to evaluate perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in food contact materials and prohibit its usage if found to be harmful.  PFASs have been used to coat food packaging for years in order to make products leak-proof and grease-proof.  A 2015 industry experiment on these PFASs found that rats exposed to the chemical developed cancerous tumors in the liver, pancreas, and testicles, as well as kidney disease, liver degeneration, and uterine polyps. 

Research by the Environmental Working Group, a co-sponsor of the legislation, found that 40 percent of fast food wrappers test positive for toxic chemical coatings.  This is especially concerning given that each day, one in three American children – no matter their age, race, or family income – eat fast food, which means that potentially one-third of children are exposed to PFASs every day.

“It’s been more than a decade since the dangers of PFASs became known, but too many fast food wrappers and food packages still contain these toxic chemicals,” said Susan Little, Senior California Government Affairs Advocate for the Environmental Working Group.  “Exposure to some of these chemicals can cause harm at the very lowest doses, especially to developing children.  Since a third of the nation’s children, across all ethnicities and income levels, eat fast food every day, Assemblymember Ting’s bill is urgently needed.”

“At Clean Water Action, we asked ourselves why any company would use products with toxic chemicals that can taint their food, and we couldn't come up with a justifiable answer,” added Andria Ventura, Toxics Program Manager at Clean Water Action, a co-sponsor of the legislation.  “That's why we made the decision to stand with Assemblymember Ting and co-sponsor this important bill.  People shouldn't be exposed to these chemicals, period.”

In 2015, hundreds of scientists urged the abandonment of PFASs and the development of safer alternatives.

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Contacts:

Jessica Duong (Ting), tel. (916) 319-2019, Jessica.Duong@asm.ca.gov

Monica Amarelo (EWG), tel. (202) 939-9140, monica@ewg.org

Matt Davis (Clean Water Action), tel. (415) 369-9160 x343, mattdavis@cleanwater.org