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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fast-casual chain Sweetgreen has announced it is phasing out per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in its bowls by the end of this year. The company is working with the packaging company Footprint on an alternative that it has already begun to roll out in some stores.
Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director, said: “We congratulate Sweetgreen for taking this important step to phase toxic PFAS out of its bowls this year. These bowls are used once, but the chemicals can last forever. This new commitment will help drive PFAS out of the fast-casual food industry. Other top food chains should join them in banning these forever chemicals in food packaging.”
Erika Schreder, Science Director of Toxic-Free Future, said: “It’s great that Sweetgreen is making a commitment to phase out PFAS from food packaging following bans that have been enacted in states like Washington. The trend to ban PFAS in food packaging is expected to continue and it makes a lot of sense for companies to commit to safer alternatives and get ahead of the curve now.”
PFAS chemicals can be found in food-contact materials used for packaging, such as molded fiber bowls. PFAS-treated paper food packaging and wrappers can contaminate the food that touches them. One study found that 38% of sandwich and burger wrappers were likely treated with PFAS. A report published by the Mind the Store campaign and Toxic-Free Future found the likely presence of PFAS in nearly two-thirds of take-out containers, including molded fiber packaging. Testing commissioned by The Counter found PFAS in Sweetgreen bowls.
This new announcement comes at a time when other top food retailers are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to reduce and eliminate harmful chemicals. Over the past year and a half, Taco Bell, Panera Bread, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Ahold Delhaize, and Albertsons announced steps to reduce or eliminate PFAS in food packaging.
Meanwhile, state and local governments are moving to phase out classes of toxic chemicals, such as PFAS, in favor of safer alternatives. Over the past two years, Washington and Maine have enacted phase-outs of PFAS in food packaging. San Francisco’s and Berkeley’s bans on PFAS in food packaging went into effect on January 1, 2020. Legislation has also been introduced in Congress. The Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act is sponsored by Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and co-sponsored by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).
The national Mind the Store campaign challenges big retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives.
Toxic-Free Future uses science and advocacy to win strong health protections for people and the environment. Toxicfreefuture.org and @ToxFreeFuture