Washington state recently adopted a law that could result in a ban on the use of certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging as of January 1, 2022, pending an alternatives assessment. Because there have been a number of factually inaccurate news stories about this development, we developed the following Q&A to provide clarity on what this law means to consumers and the food packaging industry.
Is the new Washington state law an outright ban on the use of PFAS in food packaging? No. Under the new law, the Washington Department of Ecology must first determine that there are safer replacements for PFAS used in food packaging materials. Such an assessment will include an evaluation of chemical hazards, exposure, performance, cost and availability. If suitable alternatives are not available, the ban does not go into effect. An annual review of available alternatives continues until safer alternatives are available, after which the ban goes into effect 2 years later.
Does the law affect all uses of PFAS in food contact applications? No, the law only applies to food packaging made of paper, paperboard, or other plant fiber-derived materials. It does not affect other food contact applications where PFAS may be used, including non-stick cookware and tubing in soda and ice cream dispensers.
How long will it take to conduct the alternatives assessment? The Department of Ecology is required to publish the findings of its alternatives assessment by January 1, 2020.
Should consumers be concerned about the safe use of PFAS in food packaging? No. The use of PFAS in these applications is already strictly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has concluded that the specific PFAS currently used in food packaging are safe for their intended use.
How can I learn more about this issue? To learn more about the use of PFAS in food packaging materials, please visit the FluoroCouncil website: https://fluorocouncil.com/applications/food-packaging/.