PFAS: Phasing Out Banned Chemical Compounds

PFAS Chemicals Banned


Momentum is seemingly building to speed the phase-out of PFAS.  Some states have now taken action regarding its use in direct food contact packaging. Let’s review what we’re dealing with: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) made their appearance in the 1940s, due to the attractiveness of properties that resist heat, grease, oil, water, and stains.

Since then, PFAS have been used in a variety of consumer products.  These include firefighter gear, other apparel fabrics, some non-stick cookware, cosmetics, cleaning products, packaging, and fire-fighting foam. The latter is especially harmful because heavy use has contaminated drinking water sources.

PFAS also are known to be introduced unintentionally into consumables. This is due to contact with packaging or manufacturing processes. From a health viewpoint some PFAS, for example, PFOA and PFOS, are known to build up in the environment and the human body. They are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals”.

These chemicals have been linked to reproductive problems, birth defects, liver damage, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and some cancers. PFAS, are said to threaten the health and safety of every human, animal, and plant.

FDA Bans PFOA, PROS, & PFOS Related Products

Effective Jan 4, 2016 the FDA banned three specific perfluoroalkyl ethyl containing chemicals. These are PFOA, PROS, & PFOS-related products capable of degrading into PFOA. In November 2016 the FDA phased out the use of these materials in food contact applications.

On July 3, 2020 the FDA announced an agreement with PFAS manufacturers to voluntarily phase-out use in food packaging contact substances over a three-year period. With this agreement in place, after the phase-out period ending in January 2024, food contact substances made with PFAS will not be sold.

Further, on October 18 2021 the White House announced a plan for eight federal agencies including the FDA, USDA, and EPA, to lead efforts to protect U.S. consumers from PFAS.

States Take Action Against PFOS Chemicals

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • Washington

In addition to the actions taken by the federal government and its agencies, there are currently seven states that have adopted laws to ban the use of PFAS in food packaging. These are California (effective Jan 1, 2023), Connecticut (effective Dec 31, 2023, Maine (effective Jan 1, 2022, or 2 years later following the date of a “safer alternative” being found, whichever is later), Minnesota (effective Jan 1, 2024), New York (effective Dec 31, 2022), Vermont (effective Jul 1, 2023), and Washington (effective Feb 2023). More than likely additional states will take action in the coming months.

PFAS Food Packaging

Take Action Now

Therefore, it is strongly recommended that food companies work with food packaging suppliers to guarantee compliance with the phase-out timeline, and all of the federal, and state requirements that apply.

State laws vary somewhat with “food packaging”, and “food package” being defined differently. Here is a short synopsis of the positions that the various states are taking:

In California, food packaging is defined as “a nondurable package, component of packaging, or food service ware that is intended to contain, serve, protect, store, handle, or market food, foodstuffs, or beverages”. Further, the “food packaging is comprised, in substantial part, of paper, paperboard, or other materials originally derived from plant fibers”.

California’s definition is not clear as to if the ban is limited to packaging materials in direct contact with food, or would it
also apply to outer food packaging where there is not direct food contact.

New York defines “food packaging” as “a package or packaging component that is intended for direct food contact, and is comprised in substantial part, of paper, paperboard, or other materials originally derived from plant fibers”.

The ban limits it to packaging materials made from or substantially from paper or paperboard intended for direct food contact.

Connecticut’s ban limits it to “food packaging” defined as any package or packaging component that is applied to or in direct contact with food.

Minnesota’s ban defines “food package” as meaning a container applied to or providing a means to market, protect, handle, deliver, serve, contain, or store a food or beverage.

Washington’s ban defines “food package” as a package or packaging component that is intended for direct food contact categorized as (1) wraps and liners, (2) plates (clay-coated and reusable options), (3) food boats (clay-coated and reusable
options), (4) pizza boxes (uncoated options).

Maine’s ban defines “food package” as a package designed for direct food contact including, but not limited to, a food or beverage product contained in a food package, or to which a food package is applied, a packaging component of a
food package, and plastic disposable gloves used in food service.

Vermont’s ban defines “food package” or “food packaging” as a package or packaging component
that is intended for direct food contact.

The common theme here is that states are now adopting laws to ban the use of PFAS in direct food contact packaging and food service items. Currently, investigative reporting continues to show the magnitude of the problem in that
dangerous PFAS remain to be found in our food packaging.

Recently conducted research found PFAS in food packaging products sourced from fast food and restaurant chains, and retailers. These products included, French fry containers, sandwich wrappers, fiber salad bowls, paper plates, pizza boxes, and other food packaging.


Cork uses no PFOA, PFOs, or PFOS-related products capable of degrading into PFOA in the formulations of its barrier coatings. Cork, offers a range of direct food contact barrier coating products that are FDA compliant with, 21 CFR 176.170 Paper and Paperboard components in Contact with Aqueous and Fatty Foods, or 21 CFR 176.180 Paper and Paperboard in Contact with Dry Foods.

Among these coatings are products that are applicable to food packaging, fast food, and other food service items. Cork invites readers to request a consultation to expand on Cork’s robust, cost-effective line of aqueous barrier coatings, and the drivers, sustainability and recyclability, that are attracting their use.

Cork’s business is the development and formulation of Aqueous, energy-curing Ultraviolet (UV), and Electron Beam (EB) specialty coatings and adhesives.

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