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New CA Law Will Protect Residents From Toxic PFAS Chemicals

We thank Governor Newsom for signing this bill into law and Assembly Member Ting for carrying this important legislation to protect Californians from PFAS and other toxic chemicals. The bill was co-sponsored by Center for Environmental Health with NRDC, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Clean Water Action, and Environmental Working Group.

California Governor Newsom’s signature today put in place a new law authored by Assembly Member Ting that bans PFAS in paper-based food packaging, requires disclosure of chemicals of concern (such as PFAS) in cookware, and prohibits misleading advertising about the presence of chemicals in cookware.

“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.”

First, AB 1200 bans PFAS in paper-based food packaging starting in 2023.

Food packaging is broadly defined. It includes anything that is “intended to contain, serve, store, handle, protect, or market food, foodstuffs, or beverages” and that is derived from plant fibers. The legislation provides examples of such food packaging, like take-out food containers and straws, but any food packaging that meets the definition is subject to the law’s requirements.

PFAS are not allowed in paper-based food packaging in any of the following scenarios:

  1. when PFAS are intentionally added to the product to serve a particular purpose in the product; or
  2. when PFAS are present in the product above 100 parts per million, whether intentionally added or not.

Second, AB 1200 requires the disclosure of chemicals of concern in cookware surfaces that come into contact with food or beverages or in cookware handles, both online and on the label. Online disclosure requirements begin in 2023. On label disclosures must start in 2024.

Cookware is defined as any “durable houseware items that are used in homes and restaurants to prepare, dispense, or store food, foodstuffs, or beverages.” Again, the legislation provides examples of cookware, such as pots, pans, and cooking utensils, but any cookware that meets the definition is subject to the law’s requirements.

All cookware manufacturers must make the disclosures online. However, certain small items if they don’t have sufficient surface area for a physical label are exempt from the requirement for on label disclosure unless they have an exterior container or wrapper or a tag or other attached information.

Finally, AB 1200 addresses misleading statements on cookware. Many cookware items claim to be free of a particular problematic chemical when they contain other similar problematic chemicals. For instance, cookware may claim to be PFOS-free, when it may contain one of thousands of other PFAS chemicals. Under the new law, beginning in 2023, cookware manufacturers are no longer allowed to make statements such as PFOS-free if they contain other chemicals from a family of chemicals identified by the state as being of concern for health or the environment.