New FDA rule bans 3 food packaging chemicals with suspected cancer links

© Mark Makela
Three chemicals used in pizza boxes, popcorn bags, and other food packages are no longer deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration, but the new ban is “too little, too late” for one advocacy group demanding more action against similar substances.

Concern over “chemical migration” from packaging to food has prompted environmental and public health groups to speak out for years, and after nine such organizations petitioned the FDA, they finally succeeded in pressuring the agency to ban three types of perfluorinated compounds, or PFC’s.

Those substances are linked to cancer and birth defects, according to the Environmental Working Group, one of the petitioners. While no long-term research has been done on the PFC’s, the FDA’s review of data supplied by the petitioning organizations led it to determine there to be “no longer a reasonable certainty of no harm” in the use of the chemicals.

However, considering 2011 was the last year the three PFC’s were manufactured in the US, the FDA’s new rule fell flat with the Environmental Working Group.

“Industrial chemicals that pollute people’s blood clearly have no place in food packaging,” the group’s president, Ken Cook, said in a statement. “But it’s taken the FDA more than 10 years to figure that out and it’s banning only three chemicals that aren’t even made any more.”

“This is another egregious example of how, all too often, regulatory actions under the nation’s broken chemical laws are too little and too late to protect Americans’ health. Congress needs to ensure that chemicals that make their way into food, either as deliberate additives or as contaminants from packaging and other outside sources, are thoroughly investigated,” Cook added.

The new FDA rule posted to the Federal Registry on January 4 will be enforced starting February 1. The three covered PFC’s, Diethanolamine salts of mono- and bis phosphates, Pentanoic acid, and Perfluoroalkyl, are used for guarding packaging from grease or other wetness from food.

The influential petition was signed in October 2014 by Breast Cancer Fund, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Children’s Environmental Health Network, Clean Water Action, Environmental Working Group, Improving Kids’ Environment, and Natural Resources Defense Council.