A bill in Congress would ban perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other dangerous chemicals from food packaging that presents a major route of exposure for millions of Americans. It needs our support. Action Alert!
The No Toxics in Food Packaging Act of 2023 would ban the use of five chemicals or classes of chemicals as food contact substances—that is, the packaging your food comes in at the grocery store or in other food outlets. The following chemicals would be banned from food packaging or wrappings if the bill passes: ortho-phthalates, PFAS, bisphenols (BPA and related compounds), styrene, and antimony trioxide.
As we’ve long argued, our exposure to these and other environmental contaminants in air, water, food, food packaging, and other consumer goods is contributing to the epidemic of chronic disease we’re experiencing. While far more needs to be done to protect our health, this bill is an important step in the right direction.
The bill is straightforward and to the point. It amends the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to deem the above-mentioned chemicals as unsafe for use as food contact substances. The bill contains another important provision: in assessing alternative substances, the FDA must explicitly take into account potential adverse effects of exposure on vulnerable populations, including pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly, and populations with high exposure, like factory workers. This is meant to avoid the familiar problem of banning one dangerous chemical, only for an even less characterized and potentially more dangerous chemical to take its place.
Regular readers will know that we’ve been sounding the alarm about PFAS contamination since 2019. You can read our pilot study on PFAS in supermarket kale for a summation of the scientific and policy issues at play. PFAS are nicknamed “forever” chemicals because they don’t break down in the environment and they can accumulate in our bodies. They are becoming ubiquitous in the air, in our drinking water, in our food, and in consumer products which is a huge problem since they are linked with a host of negative health effects.
We were previously critical of Congress for its lack of attention to the issue of PFAS contamination, noting that about a third of the bills that dealt with the topic were geared towards shielding certain industries from legal liability. It’s a welcome change to see bills like the No Toxics in Food Packaging Act that make a meaningful effort to protect our health.
It is an especially important bill because we know that PFAS in food packaging leach onto the food contained within. This is particularly worrisome because so many otherwise healthy foods like fresh and organic produce are being wrapped in plastic and other packaging that contains these nasty chemicals that we’re then eating. This bill alone won’t solve the problem, but the point is that it helps reduce the total toxin load that we referenced a few weeks ago.
The apparent inaction of federal agencies is a grim reminder of the pressing need for Congress to take action. We’ve been covering the EPA’s forays into PFAS regulation, and the agency’s efforts have less much to be desired. It’s as if the EPA sees a blazing fire but wants to make sure it protects the interests of those who started it.
Join us in supporting this important bill!
Action Alert! Write to Congress in support of the No Toxics in Food Packaging Act of 2023. Please send your message immediately.