Making products more durable and more resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease and water comes at a sustainable price. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of 5,000 chemicals used for these purposes, but they are also known as “eternal chemicals”, primarily because they are designed to be extremely durable and tough to be destroyed even at high temperatures, which means that these chemicals will not deteriorate easily. PFAS contain strong carbon-fluorine bonds, which is why these chemicals are not biodegradable, and their use raises serious concerns about environmental persistence and bioaccumulation. Here, we provide an overview of PFAS regulations in place or already in place, affecting companies in the F&B and CPG industries that have come to rely on these chemicals in their products.
The Problem – Increased PFAS Exposure:
The use of PFAS moved from pesticides to food packaging in the 1940s, but its toxicity has always been a problem for human health, which has been affected by the consumption of these persistent chemicals, leading to chronic diseases from exposure. eating. Millions of consumers are getting more and more boxes of CPGs, fast food, takeout and pizza made with forever chemicals to seal out fat, retain heat or waterproof packaging – and these are not Here are just a few examples of how consumers quickly increased PFAS levels in their bodies.
Water contamination is another major problem caused by using these chemicals forever. PFAS quickly pollute the environment, contaminating air, soil and water and also causing problems for manufacturers, as they are particularly vulnerable to controversy and lawsuits.
Voluntary PFAS phase-out plan:
In 2020, scientists from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the results of studies on some PFAS used in food packaging, and these results show a high rate of serious human health problems such as low birth weight, kidney cancer and thyroid problems. In July of the same year, the The FDA announced an agreement with manufacturers to voluntarily implement a 3-year phase-out plan for certain short-chain PFAS used in food packaging, starting in January 2021. Since then, 14 fast-casual restaurant chains have committed to eliminating chemicals forever in food packaging, affecting more than 123,534 stores and more than $203.2 billion in annual sales. Additionally, 4 of the largest grocery chains in the United States have made the same commitment, matching over 5,000 stores and over $130 billion in annual sales.
US Federal PFAS Regulations:
When it comes to regulatory laws, chemicals have always been a concern federal and state agencies in the United States. In April 2021, the EPA PFAS Board was established, with the primary goal of protecting public health and the environment from the impacts of PFAS, which led to the PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA Action Commitments 2021-2024, which describes the actions in the various divisions of the EPA. Currently, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is analyzing an initial plan submitted by the EPA to designate two PFASs, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), as under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and a final rule is expected in the summer of 2023.
Some states have their own PFAS regulations, such as California. It is expected that in 2023, the state will impose permanent bans on chemicals in food packaging, children’s products and fire-fighting foam, and will also require the use of “the least toxic alternative” when replacing PFAS in clothing or textiles.
Regulations on the amount of PFAS in drinking water are also on the horizon in California, already having a non-formal federal standard for “notification levels” and “response levels” for PFOA and PFOS that are on the horizon. apply to public water supply providers.
Across the border, Canada has been a pioneer in regulating PFAS, as the use, sale and import of PFOS and PFOS-containing products have been banned since 2008, with the exception of certain products used in the fight against fires and the army as well as certain inks. and uses of photographic media. Currently, the Canadian government is analyzing comments and information received last winter (December 2021 – March 2022) for a draft regulation to amend the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations, 2012.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Union has a PFAS regulation under the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) known as REACH, which was adopted to increase the protection of human health and the environment against chemical hazards while increasing the competitiveness of the EU chemical industry. Under this regulation, the European Commission has accepted a proposal from the German and Swedish authorities to restrict perfluorinated carboxylic acids (C9-14 PFCAs), their salts and their precursors in the EU/EEA from February 2023.
Over the past two years, ECHA’s scientific committees have supported proposals from Norway and Germany to restrict perfluorohexane-1-sulfonic acid (PFHxS) and undecafluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), its salts and related substances, but the decision has not been finalized by the European Commission yet.
In addition, a restriction proposal covering a wide range of PFAS uses is expected to be submitted to ECHA in January 2023 by the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
Denmark can serve as a reference in this matter, having published Ordinance No. 681 of 25 May 2020, entitled Executive Order on Materials in Contact with Food and Penal Code for violation of related European laws. This regulation prohibits PFAS compounds in food contact paper and paperboard materials and articles.
Over the past 30 years, some asian countries increased production and use of PFAS, especially China, which is now one of the largest manufacturers and consumers of PFAS in the world; and on the Asian continent, regulations in this area have been tightened. China has included 18 chemical-related substances forever on the country’s priority control chemical list, so laws and regulations on environmental hazard control measures in the future are expected to improve the New pollutant management action plan released by the Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment on October 11, 2021.
Conversely, Japanese regulations on PFAS are more flexible. Although PFOA was added to the list of Class I Specified Chemical Substances under the CSCA in April 2021, PFOA-related substances are excluded from the scope of the regulations. Fortunately, this is not a trend for other Asian countries. For example, in May 2021, Thailand announced that it was proposing to include eight substances, including PFOA, as Class 4 hazardous substances (prohibited substances) in the Hazardous Substances Act.
While the permanent regulation of chemicals for the food and beverage sector appears to be in its infancy around the world, and is not even being addressed at all by some Asian countries, there is an urgent that research and testing be carried out on substances and compounds already known to the scientific community that have the potential to replace PFAS in human dietary products and packaging.
What should F&B and CPG companies do?
Certainly, F&B and CPG companies will stand out if they don’t wait for laws and regulations to implement new technologies and provide safer PFAS-free products. For this, it is necessary to commit and invest in research to develop environmentally friendly alternatives that will be both safe for food and compatible with consumer needs while respecting regulatory policies.
To begin with, IThe industry can already produce cosmetics based on organic and vegan ingredients, waterproof strollers and car seats in cork and recyclable PET, but also polymer membranes for industrial applications without using toxic fluorinated processes, all without PFAS, such as shown in the PreScouter Intelligence Brief Alternative PFAS chemistries: how can we reduce our dependence on eternal chemicals?
In early spring 2022, PreScouter investigated safe alternatives to chemicals forever on behalf of a food manufacturer, and the team was able to identify 23 potential alternatives to PFAS including both chemical and physical solutions, 3 of which have proven to be promising technologies in the late stages of development, and 1 of which has subsequently been piloted by the customer.
Alternatives to PFAS must be well understood in order to avoid creating the same scenario in the next decades. Alternatives to PFAS must be composed of non-toxic substances to be food safe and environmentally friendly, as must their production and end-of-life treatment, if we are to develop a definitive solution to this problem.
If your business is looking to move away from using “chemicals forever” or if you would like to know if we can help your business address other innovation challenges, please contact us. here or write to us at [email protected]