Packaging Innovation
PFCs in food packaging
February 1, 2016

Food packaging – US bans perfluorinated compounds (PFCs)

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently banned the use of three perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in food packaging, considering them a potential cause of cancer and birth defects. A drop in the ocean if you look at the whole picture, claims Environmental Working Group (EWG) president Ken Cook.

What are perfluorinated compounds (PFCs)?

PFCs are a family of chemicals that contain fluorine. Over the years, PFCs gained popularity in the food packaging industry due to their oil and water repelling qualities. They are/were mostly used in paper packaging for fatty foods, such as sandwich wrappers, pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags.

Too little, too late

“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,” says Cook. “It’s taken the FDA more than ten years to figure out [the dangers of PFCs in food packaging], and it’s banning only three chemicals that aren’t even made any more.” Meanwhile, according to Cook, PFCs are still making their way into the US through the import of food packaging from other countries.

Health concerns

Researchers are having serious health concerns about PFCs, which come in many forms. The two most commonly found contaminants are PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate). Exposure to PFOA is known to cause liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer and mammary gland tumors in rats, while laboratory animals exposed to PFOS are known to experience liver damage, kidney damage and reproductive problems. Both animals and humans exposed to PFOA and/or PFOS before birth tend to have a lower birth weight. It takes the human body more than four years to expel just half a dose of PFOA and more than eight years to expel half a dose of PFOS.   Inspired by Packaging Gateway and