Washington recently passed legislation that will examine and possibly lead to a ban on perfluorinated chemicals (PFAs) in food packaging. Under Washington’s Healthy Food Packaging Act (H.B. 2658/S.B. 6396), which takes effect June 7, the Department of Ecology is required to identify safer alternatives to PFAs by January 1, 2020. If Ecology succeeds in doing so, the law will ban PFAs in paper food packaging two years later, on January 1, 2022. If Ecology does not find safer alternatives, Ecology will be required to review safer alternatives every year. When Ecology finds an acceptable alternative, the ban will go into effect two years later. Given the annual review cycle, an eventual ban on PFAs is likely, making Washington the first state to ban PFAs in food packaging.
California has also begun its scrutiny of PFAs in food packaging as well as other Candidate Chemicals in food packaging: Bisphenol A and Bisphenol S in plastic resin lining food and beverage cans, phthalates as plasticizers, and styrene in polystyrene and rubber products. California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) Draft Three Year Priority Product Work Plan (2018-2020) includes food packaging as a product category under review, due to concerns relating to exposure from these Candidate Chemicals. Five NGOs recently submitted comments supporting the inclusion of food contact substances in the Plan. Listing a product category just means that DTSC is taking the first step in evaluating a product. If it is listed as a Priority Product following evaluation, manufactures will be required to perform an Alternative Analysis, and could lead to onerous regulatory requirements, such as labeling, funding research and development into safer substitutes, restrictions, phase outs or outright bans.
Active participation in the regulatory activities by food packaging manufacturers and users will be important to ensure that state policy is well-informed and results in reasonable policy choices.