WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the Keep Food Containers Safe From PFAS Act was passed as an amendment to the FDA Safety and Landmark Advancements (FDASLA) Act of 2022 on a bipartisan vote (13-9) in the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP). The amendment, which will ban the use of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances) in food packaging, was offered by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) with the support of Senator Murkowski (R-AK).
In response, Toxic-Free Future and its programs Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and Mind the Store, as well as Safer States issued the following statements:
“Our lunch should never come with a side of ‘forever’ chemicals, so it’s great to see Congress join retailers and states that have taken action to end the unnecessary use of this dangerous pollutant,” said Liz Hitchcock, director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, a program of Toxic-Free Future. “The best way to stop PFAS from contaminating drinking water, breast milk, wildlife, and people is to end its use in everyday products like food packaging. We applaud the Senate HELP committee for adopting this commonsense provision to take PFAS off the menu and look forward to working with the sponsors to see it all the way to the President’s desk.”
“With this leadership, Senator Murray is extending protections from PFAS that were first put in place in Washington state to the rest of the country. Senator Murray has long been a champion for children’s and women’s health, and getting PFAS out of food packaging will help get these toxic forever chemicals out of breast milk,” said Laurie Valeriano, executive director of Toxic-Free Future, headquartered in Washington state.
“The federal government is finally following the states’ lead and stepping up to the plate,” said Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States. “States across the country, from Maine to Minnesota to California, have been adopting bi-partisan laws that protect communities from toxic ‘forever’ chemicals. State-led efforts will continue to grow and we need complementary federal actions like this to solve the PFAS pollution crisis we are now facing.”
“Fast-food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Starbucks are already banning PFAS, so the marketplace is moving,” said Mike Schade, director of Mind the Store, a program of Toxic-Free Future. “The federal government must level the playing field to ensure all Americans are protected from these forever chemicals.”
Bill text can be found here.
Chemical companies sell PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) for application to paper and textiles as stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proofing treatments. A growing body of scientific research has found links between exposures to PFAS and a wide range of health problems including a weaker immune system, decreased vaccine response, cancer, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. PFAS are often referred to as “forever” chemicals because they are not known to break down in the environment and can easily move through soil to drinking water. With remarkable persistence and mobility, PFAS have become global pollutants that threaten the health of people and wildlife.
A 2020 report by Toxic-Free Future found major fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s likely serve up toxic PFAS with some of their most popular takeout foods. A 2018 report also indicated the presence of PFAS in food packaging at top grocery store chains. A recent peer-reviewed study by Toxic-Free Future found PFAS in 100% of breast milk samples tested and that newer PFAS build up in people. And Toxic-Free Future’s 2021 investigative report revealed that a PFAS manufacturing facility is a major source of both PFAS pollution and ozone-depleting chemicals that contribute to health problems and climate change.
State governments are taking legislative and regulatory actions to phase out PFAS in products to prevent contamination in favor of safer alternatives. For example, laws in ME and WA have given state agencies authority to ban PFAS in a wide range of products. Nine states (CA, CO, CT, MD, ME, MN, NY, VT, and WA) have enacted state bans on PFAS in food packaging. CO, MD, ME, and VT adopted bans on PFAS in carpets, rugs, and aftermarket treatments and regulatory action is pending on these products and other home textiles (e.g. upholstery, bedding) in CA and WA. CA, CO, CT, IL, ME, MD, NH, NY, VT, and WA have put in place bans on the sale of firefighting foam containing PFAS.
Retailers are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to reduce or eliminate PFAS in key product sectors including textiles, according to the annual Retailer Report Card published by Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program. In response to TFF’s Mind the Store program, 22 retailers selling food or food packaging have announced steps to reduce or eliminate PFAS in food packaging at more than 140,000 stores worldwide including Burger King, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Whole Foods Market, and other major retailers.
Toxic-Free Future (TFF) is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that advances the use of safer products, chemicals, and practices through research, organizing, advocacy, and consumer engagement to ensure a healthier tomorrow. Safer Chemicals Healthy Families is a Toxic-Free Future program dedicated to achieving strong federal policies that protect the public from toxic chemicals. Mind the Store is a Toxic-Free Future program that challenges retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives, and scores major retailers on their safer chemicals policies in an annual Retailer Report Card.
Safer States is a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations in states across the country that share a bold and urgent vision to protect people and communities from toxic chemical threats. By harnessing place-based power, Safer States helps prevent harm to people and the environment caused by dangerous chemicals and creates innovative solutions that promote safer alternatives.