April 22, 2024

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U.S. is promoting the removal of PFAS in hamburger wrappers

U.S. government is promoting the removal of PFAS in hamburger wrappers and other packaging materials.

The U.S. government is promoting the removal of PFAS in hamburger wrappers and other packaging materials.

Major chemical manufacturers, including Japanese companies such as Daikin Industries and AGC, have accepted the request from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to halt the sale of products containing certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for food packaging containers in the United States.

There is a growing movement in the United States and Europe to eliminate harmful PFAS from supply chains, highlighting a stark contrast with Japan’s regulatory authorities regarding this issue.

U.S. government is promoting the removal of PFAS in hamburger wrappers and other packaging materials.

Even paper containers for takeout

The FDA, responsible for food safety administration, announced on February 28 that “products resistant to oil made from PFA will no longer be used for food packaging containers.”

Specifically, packaging containers refer to hamburger wrappers, bags containing microwaveable popcorn, paper containers for takeout, bags for pet food, and others. PFAS has been used in these to prevent the penetration of oil and water.

PFAS is a general term for over 10,000 types of organic fluorine compounds, used in a wide range of applications from cookware to semiconductors.

However, due to concerns about carcinogenicity and other health risks such as immune system suppression, lipid abnormalities, and fetal growth retardation, there is a growing trend in Europe and the United States towards stricter regulations and bans on their use. In the United States, there have been numerous lawsuits seeking substantial damages against manufacturers.

Potential harm revealed in latest studies

Hamburger wrappers and the like have traditionally used PFOA and PFOS, both types of PFAS. However, as they became subject to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs Convention), which essentially prohibits their production and use, “6:2 FTOH,” which was considered relatively safe and not subject to regulation, began to be used as a substitute.

However, recent studies have revealed that when 6:2 FTOH is used in food packaging containers, it can migrate into the food and be absorbed into the body, potentially persisting.

In 2020, the FDA prioritized the protection of public health and requested chemical product manufacturers to switch to products that do not use 6:2 FTOH by 2023, despite many uncertainties regarding its toxicity. This approach aligns with the “precautionary principle” commonly seen in the European Union’s food safety administration.

“An important step in protecting consumers”

While some manufacturers had already voluntarily stopped using it, companies like Daikin America, AGC Chemicals America, and Arkema Management began efforts to switch to alternatives in response to the FDA’s request, starting in 2021. In January of this year, they informed the FDA that they had stopped using it. Additionally, several companies have also stopped using other PFAS besides 6:2 FTOH.

Deputy FDA Commissioner Jim Jones emphasized that “this achievement is nothing less than an important step in protecting consumers from chemicals that may contaminate food and have adverse effects on people,” adding that “this would not have been possible without the FDA’s leadership and industry cooperation.”

According to CNN, at the local level, 12 states have already moved to ban or restrict the use of PFAS in food packaging containers.

In addition to packaging containers, there is a growing movement in the United States to remove PFAS from various consumer products. State laws prohibiting the use of PFAS in various everyday items were enacted last year in states such as Minnesota and Maine, accelerating the movement to remove PFAS in the United States. President Biden is also proactive in strengthening regulations on PFAS.

The situation is similar in Europe, where the EU is currently discussing banning all PFAS as a principle.

No movement seen in Japan

While Japanese manufacturers are rushing to develop alternative products individually out of concern that exports will be severely affected if the EU decides to ban them altogether, there is currently no specific political or administrative movement in Japan to prioritize public health as in Europe and the United States and significantly regulate their domestic use.

The Food Safety Commission of the Cabinet Office, which evaluates risks of pesticides and chemicals, compiled its first “health impact assessment proposal” on PFAS on January 26. Health impact assessments serve as scientific basis for the government to regulate the substance.

However, there are concerns that the assessment, which appears to underestimate the risk of PFAS compared to evaluation agencies in Europe and the United States, may lead to a postponement of regulatory measures, as voiced by residents of contaminated areas.

U.S. government is promoting the removal of PFAS in hamburger wrappers and other packaging materials.

(source:internet, reference only)

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