Take action to stop PFAS in food packaging
A new study has found that PFAS chemicals are being used in disposable food packaging from popular fast-food chains, takeaway restaurants, and supermarkets across Europe, including in the UK.
Studies have shown that some PFAS can migrate from the packaging into the food. Scientific studies have linked some PFAS chemicals to several health concerns, including certain cancers, impacts on the immune, reproductive and hormone systems, as well as reduced response to vaccinations.
PFAS chemicals are used in a variety of products due to their ability to repel both grease and water. In addition to paper, cardboard and moulded plant fibre food packaging, PFAS can be used in many other products, including cosmetics, clothing, and soft furnishings. Read more about PFAS here.
Last year the Danish Government banned all PFAS in paper and cardboard food packaging, and the European Commission has committed to phase out all non-essential uses of PFAS in its 2020 Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. The UK Government has recently announced that it has asked the Health & Safety Executive and the Environment Agency to investigate the risks of PFAS and consider how to manage them. CHEM Trust urges the UK Government to ban PFAS in all non-essential uses, including food packaging.
You can write to your MP urging them to support a restriction of PFAS in food packaging and other non-essential uses.
Find your local MP here.
An idea for an email is below. Personalising this email will make it more powerful.
Dear [Your local MP]
PFAS chemicals, which have been linked to several serious health issues, are not banned from materials that come into contact with food. Some of these chemicals can migrate into the food and drink that people consume. PFAS chemicals are also present in other products that many people use regularly, such as cosmetics, clothing, and cookware.
On a daily basis UK citizens are unwittingly exposing themselves and their families to these chemicals. Although individuals can take some small actions to reduce their own exposure, many people do not have sufficient information to do this, and the best way to protect the health of people is through authorities taking responsibility to prevent the use of these chemicals in the first place. The UK Government should act now to ban PFAS from all uses that are not essential, such as food packaging.
Please can you pass on these concerns to Rt Hon Thérése Coffey MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
[Provide your full name and address, including post code, to demonstrate you are a constituent]
You could also contact your MP via social media. Here are some example tweets:
I have just emailed my local MP asking them to support new, strong regulations that protect us from harmful #PFAS chemicals in food packaging. A new study has found these #foreverchemicals present in disposable food packaging from high street brands: https://chemtrust.org/news/pfas-report-fcm-may2021/
In a new investigation, harmful #PFAS chemicals have been found in food packaging available in popular UK high street chains https://chemtrust.org/news/pfas-report-fcm-may2021/ I have written to my MP @[Enter your MP’s twitter handle] urging them to support a restriction of PFAS in food packaging and other non-essential uses.
The Danish Government has banned all #PFAS in paper and cardboard food packaging. I have emailed my MP @[Enter your MP’s twitter handle] to urge the UK Government to do the same. A recent report from @CHEMTrust found harmful PFAS prevalent in UK food packaging: https://chemtrust.org/news/pfas-report-fcm-may2021/
You can also contact food and food packaging retailers whose packaging was found to contain PFAS by this study and ask them to remove PFAS from their food packaging. Here are some example tweets:
In a new study, harmful #PFAS chemicals have been found in food packaging sold by popular UK high street chains, including @[insert retailer] https://chemtrust.org/news/pfas-report-fcm-may2021/ Alternatives are available – please commit to stop using #PFAS in your food packaging?
A new study has shown that harmful #PFAS chemicals are used in take-away food packaging in @[insert retailer] products. Read more: https://chemtrust.org/news/pfas-report-fcm-may2021/ Will you commit to removing them and join the #PFASMovement like other companies? #BanPFAS
CHEM Trust contacted the UK retailers whose packaging was tested as part of this study prior to publication of the report, and received responses from McDonald’s and the Co-op.
A spokesperson from McDonald’s said:
“In January this year, we were proud to announce another step in our product stewardship journey with our commitment to remove all added fluorinated compounds from our guest packaging materials globally by 2025.
This builds on earlier actions including the elimination of a significant subset of PFAS in 2008 and the removal of BPA/BPS and phthalates in 2013 and 2015, respectively. We are a business that continues to push itself and we are working hard to beat our own 2025 ambition.
All McDonald’s packaging materials are compliant with FDA, EU and all local regulatory bodies and we are continuously monitoring, testing and innovating on all packaging materials in partnership with our suppliers to ensure they are safe for customers and the environment.”
Cathryn Higgs, Head of Policy at Co-op said:
“Co-op is committed to designing own-brand products with quality, sustainability and health in front of mind, ensuring our packaging is created in a responsible way. We are actively working on how to remove PFAS from the very small number of own-brand products affected.”
Scottish environmental NGO Fidra recently published a report (pdf) revealing that harmful PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances), known as forever chemicals, are present in UK food packaging.
Fidra analysed 20 food packaging samples bought in the UK to test for the presence of PFAS. PFAS were present in 95% of the samples tested, including food packaging from major UK supermarkets, popular takeaway chains and independent takeaway restaurants.
PFAS chemicals have been linked to various adverse health effects, including thyroid disease, liver damage, reduced response to vaccines in children, and increased risk of certain cancers.
Fidra is running a ‘Find the PFAS’ challenge to find out which food packaging has been treated with PFAS. They are asking the public to carry out a simple ‘bead test’ on paper or cardboard food packaging and submit the results to their website. Find out more on their website.