Today, a group of health, environmental and consumer organizations sent a formal petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban all PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) that accumulate in the body.
A response to a Freedom of Information Act request recently revealed that the FDA described serious health concerns with the use of certain “short-chain” PFAS in correspondence with PFAS manufacturers, saying the companies had to provide evidence that the chemicals were safe to use. to continue using. The agency then turned down an offer from one company to conduct additional studies within two years, saying that would take too much time given the risks posed by the chemicals. Despite this, the FDA soon accepted a separate industry proposal that all manufacturers would have five years to voluntarily phase out the unsafe PFAS.
There is extensive PFAS contamination in the US due to the widespread use of chemicals in many industries, in firefighting foam, in household products, food packaging and more. Scientific evidence showing harm to health, especially children’s health, from the chemicals is overwhelming. This has resulted in a call for action against the chemicals often supplied by communities affected by pollution — and significant state-level progress.
FDA-approved PFAS are a major contributor to this problem. The chemicals are used in many food applications, including to make paper and cardboard that come into contact with food water and grease resistant. They are commonly found in takeout containers, plastic bottles, disposable bowls and plates, in addition to popcorn bags, pet food bags and more.
The petition was filed by Environmental Defense Fund, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Defend Our Health, Environmental Working Group, Green Science Policy Institute, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, and League of Conservation Voters.
The FDA has not done enough when it comes to protecting the public from PFAS, and the few measures it has taken have been inadequate and often after years of delay. The agency has acted piecemeal, phasing out some types of PFAS, but still approving new ones for food, as evidence mounts that the chemicals build up in our bodies and are linked to cancer, immunologic, reproductive and developmental damage. Proponents are now asking the agency to take decisive steps against this class of chemicals.
The petition asks the FDA to withdraw all approvals for the use of the chemicals in food and food packaging and issue a regulation banning them unless there is evidence that the use is safe. This is necessary not only because of the known danger of many types of PFAS, but also because of the FDA’s inadequate actions to date on the chemicals. The agency needs to stop assuming these chemicals are safe and conduct thorough health and environmental impact assessments.
“FDA must permanently close the door to PFAS in food and food packaging,” said dr. Maricel Maffini, scientist and co-author of the petition. “The agency has a poor track record of evaluating the safety of these chemicals and taking action. We think it’s time for the FDA to follow science and put public health first.”
“Given the evidence linking PFAS to numerous health harms, including breast cancer, it is imperative for the FDA to act and protect our health,” he said. Lisette van Vliet, Senior Policy Coordinator at Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “Allowing the continued use of these chemicals in food packaging is unacceptable.”
“There is no excuse for the FDA to continue to allow millions of Americans to be exposed to toxic PFAS in food packaging and food items, especially when safer alternatives are available,” he said. Sue Chiang, Director of Pollution Prevention, Center for Environmental Health. “The FDA should turn off the tap on toxic PFAS. We all have the right to access toxin-free foods that do not harm people throughout the product lifecycle, from employees to consumers, to communities disproportionately affected by irresponsible disposal practices.”
“Americans are routinely exposed to PFAS ‘forever chemicals,’ which are ubiquitous in food packaging and can be toxic at very low levels,” said dr. Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist at Consumer Reports. “We need action from the FDA to ensure that the public is protected and not inadvertently consume these hazardous substances in the foods they eat.”
“While states such as Maine, Washington, Vermont and New York have already taken action to remove PFAS from food packaging, the FDA has done little to address the obvious dangers PFAS poses,” it said. Patrick MacRoy, Deputy Director of Defend Our Health. “We hope this petition will provide the impetus for the new administration at the FDA to finally provide the federal leadership that is so desperately requested.”
“The FDA has understood the risks of PFAS since the 1960s, but has not acted,” he said Scott Faber, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs for the Environmental Working Group. “The evidence linking PFAS to cancer and damage to the reproductive and immune systems has only grown stronger, but the FDA has still refused to protect us. There is no better example of FDA’s broken food chemical rating system than the presence of toxic chemicals in food packaging. If the FDA once again puts the chemical companies before our health, Congress should just ban PFAS in food packaging.
“Persistent chemicals linked to health damage have no place in our food packaging,” he said Tom Bruton, PhD, Senior Scientist at Green Science Policy Institute. “The FDA must quickly and transparently withdraw approvals for the short-chain PFAS that its own scientists have determined to be unsafe.”
“There should be no place in the US food supply for toxic chemicals like PFAS that are present in the bodies of pregnant women and children,” he said. Jane Houlihan, Research Director of Health Babies Bright Futures. “All babies deserve a clean, healthy start in life, free from toxic chemicals that compromise their healthy development. FDA should help make that a reality.”
“It’s been a long time since the federal government protected our families from dangerous PFAS chemicals once and for all,” he said. Madeleine Foote, Deputy Legislative Director, LCV. “PFAS contamination is an equality issue – the FDA has a responsibility to protect the health of our communities, especially communities of color and low-income communities that may be exposed to higher levels of these toxic ‘forever chemicals’.”
This is a formal petition that the agency is required by law to answer within 180 days. The petition argues that the FDA is endangering people’s health by allowing dangerous PFAS to come into contact with food.