The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is banning three chemical substances linked to cancer and birth defects from use in food wrapping.
The grease-resistant perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are used to treat paper and paperboard for pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, sandwich wrappers and other food packaging. Manufacturers generally have stopped using these products already, but any continued use is no longer permitted.
The FDA said it was acting in response to a petition filed by environmental and health groups.
One of the organizations behind the petition, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), noted that the three chemicals were no longer made in the U.S. as of 2011, but the possibility remained that food packaging with those chemicals made in other countries could be imported.
While the ban is considered progress, EWG said that it does nothing to prevent food processors and packagers from using almost 100 related chemicals that may also be hazardous.
“Industrial chemicals that pollute people’s blood clearly have no place in food packaging,” commented EWG president Ken Cook. “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.”