California Leaders Approve Bill to Ban PFAS in Paper-Based Food Packaging
AB 1200 will also require disclosure for use of toxic chemicals in cookware
SACRAMENTO – California lawmakers have approved legislation to ban the use of the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS in paper-based food packaging and to require disclosure of toxic substances in cookware, sending the bill to Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature.
The bill, AB 1200, known as the California Safer Food Packaging and Cookware Act of 2021 and authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), will protect consumers and the environment from PFAS and other harmful chemicals by:
- Banning paper-based food packaging using PFAS chemicals starting January 1, 2023
- Requiring cookware manufacturers starting January 1, 2024, to disclose the presence of chemicals in their products that are of concern for human health or the environment
- Prohibiting misleading advertising on cookware packaging as early as January 1, 2023
Cosponsors of the legislation include Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Environmental Health, Clean Water Action, Environmental Working Group and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).
“Most people don’t realize there are PFAS in everyday items including food packaging. PFAS is a massive global public health issue. It is imperative that we stop adding to the problem, and eliminate PFAS use wherever possible,” said Avinash Kar, director of state health policy for NRDC. “This bill will do just that by banning the unnecessary use of PFAS in paper-based food packaging.”
PFAS are widely used in paper-based food packaging made from plant fibers, such as cardboard, for their water and grease resistant properties. Examples of food packaging that often contain PFAS include paper wraps, liners, bags, sleeves, dinnerware (plates, bowls, trays), and takeout containers made of molded fiber. The chemicals can migrate from the packaging into our food, contaminate soil when the packaging is composted, and pose contamination risks for water systems when the material is landfilled.
The removal of these toxic chemicals will help protect the workers making these products, the consumers using them, the communities living near their production or disposal, and vulnerable populations already bearing a disproportionate burden of environmental pollution.
“PFAS chemicals should not be used in materials that touch our food because they persist in the environment and human body, and have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, organ damage, and other severe diseases and can interfere with vaccine response,” said Sue Chiang, pollution prevention director for the Center for Environmental Health. “The Center for Environmental Health has spent 25 years protecting people from toxic chemicals and are proud to co-sponsor AB1200 to help create a healthier world for us all.”
The bill also requires cookware manufacturers to disclose chemicals of concern, such as PFAS and bisphenol A, or BPA, and other substances on the California Department of Toxic Substances Control’s Candidate Chemical List, if they are added either to surfaces that come into contact with food or drink or to handles. The disclosure must be available online starting January 1, 2023, and January 1, 2024, on the product label.
“Consumers are increasingly demanding information about the chemicals in their products. Breast cancer survivors and new moms work extra hard to avoid chemicals that could contribute to a re-occurrence of cancer or harm the development of their children” said Nancy Buermeyer, Senior Policy Strategist for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “This groundbreaking bill will help consumers make educated decisions about their purchases and avoid harmful chemicals. We look to Governor Newsom to protect the health of all Californians by signing AB 1200.”
“Consumers have for too long been kept in the dark about PFAS and other chemicals in their cookware that could enter their food, and they are often misled about cooking products’ safety. AB 1200 will impose a first-ever requirement that cookware manufacturers disclose harmful chemicals present in the surface coatings of pots, pans, and other products, and the bill will curb the use of false safety claims on packaging,” said Susan Little, senior advocate for the Environmental Working Group.
The bill will also set deadlines starting January 1, 2023, to prohibit misleading advertising on cookware — such as claims that a product is free of a specific hazardous chemical when other chemicals from the same class are present. Such claims can mislead buyers into believing a product is free of problematic chemicals. For instance, pans claiming to be “PFOA free” often contain other harmful PFAS chemicals like PTFE.
“The insidious thing about PFAS is that we are not only exposed by using products that contain them, but we are re-exposed when these chemicals get into our water, air, soil, and crops,” said Andria Ventura, legislative and policy director at Clean Water Action. “Since food packaging is a major source of litter in water and can contaminate compost, our precious water resources and food are at risk. That’s why AB 1200 is so important.”
AB 1200 now moves to Governor Newsom’s desk for action before October 10.
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing.
Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) is the leading national science-based, policy and advocacy organization focused on preventing breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation. Through scientific translation, education, legislative advocacy, and corporate accountability campaigns, BCPP occupies a unique niche at the nexus of environmental health, women’s health and breast cancer prevention. Visit us at www.bcpp.org and follow us on Twitter @BCPPartners
Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is a 25-year-old organization leading the nationwide effort to protect people from toxic chemicals. CEH protects people from toxic chemicals by working with communities, consumers, workers, government, and the private sector to demand and support business practices that are safe for public health and the environment. Learn more at www.CEH.org and follow us on Twitter at @CenterEnvHealth
Clean Water Action (CWA) is a national organization founded during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972. With offices in the nation’s capital and 12 states, CWA’s mission is to protect our environment, health, economic well-being and community quality of life by organizing strong grassroots groups and coalitions, and campaigns to elect environmental candidates and to solve environmental and community problems. To learn more about what CWA does nationally and in states around the country, go to www.cleanwateraction.org. And follow us in CA at @cleanh2oca
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org and follow us at @ewg on Twitter.