Chemours asks FDA to suspend its approved uses of PFAS in food packaging

Tom Neltner, J.D.Chemicals Policy Director

Politico reported today that Chemours notified the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it had officially abandoned its three approved food packaging uses of per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) and asked the agency to withdraw its Food Contact Substance Notifications (FCNs) for those uses. We do not know with certainty what prompted Chemours to abandon its PFAS products for food packaging or whether they were ever used in the United States. Based on past experience, we anticipate that FDA will grant the request.

This action takes us one step closer to reducing people’s exposure to these chemicals linked to an array of health risks posed by PFAS at extremely low levels. Additionally, the action should serve as an incentive for other companies to do the same.

Chemours also has FCNs for six PFAS uses in repeat-use food contact articles like gaskets and seals. The company apparently has not asked the agency to abandon these uses. We suspect that the PFAS-treated gaskets may still be in service even if it has stopped treating new gaskets with the chemicals.

In a blog earlier this week, we made five recommendations to FDA as it undertakes a review of the 62 active PFAS FCNs. Based on FDA’s obligation to consider the cumulative effect of PFAS in the diet and the evidence of contamination of foods – and humans – with the chemicals, our first recommendation is for the agency to begin the process of revoking its past approvals to reduce further exposure. To start this process, FDA must notify PFAS manufacturers that their FCNs are no longer effective and give the companies an opportunity to make their case that the substances are safe. If the agency is not convinced, it should move quickly to revoke its approval and, as required by its rules, post a notice in the Federal Register. If the agency is convinced a PFAS use is safe, it should provide the public with a detailed explanation of its reasoning.

With Chemours abandonment of three PFAS uses, 59 active FCNs remain. The companies with active FCNs are:

  • Solvay Specialty Polymers: 11 FCNs
  • Daikin America: 8 FCNs
  • Asahi Glass/AGC Chemicals: 7 FCNs
  • Solenis and Chemours: 6 FCNs each
  • Greene, Tweed and Company: 4 FCNs
  • 3M, Archroma, Arkema, Dyneon, DuPont: 2 FCNs each
  • BASF, Dow Silicones, Henkel, Precision, Polymer Engineering, Process Technologies, Unimatec, and Victrex: 1 FCN each

Also this week, the New Food Economy published an article with testing results showing that compostable-paper food bowls at leading “fast casual” restaurants in New York City appeared to have intentionally-added PFAS. The report used an analytical method developed by Notre Dame’s Graham Peaslee that identified total fluorine, but did not identify specific PFAS in the bowls. Without additional information, we do not yet know which of the companies with active FCNs listed above provided the PFAS used in the takeout bowls.

Both the Chemours decision and the findings from The New Food Economy article highlight the need for FDA to move quickly to complete its reassessment of the safety of its PFAS approvals.

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2 Comments

  1. Geoff Daly
    Posted August 9, 2019 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    DuPont back in 1966 was banned from allowing PFAS being used for food wrappings. Was series of letters between the FDA & DuPonts legal beagles… the acquiesced to the FDA, who sent copies to the EPA who have subsqeuntly misplaced them, how convenient for the EPA.
    Now even the FDA have screwed up and have allowed Daikin in Al to coat food wrappers, because the FDA inspector only checked back to 1970 and no earlier.
    The FDA refused to revisit the permit for review as they allowed Daikin permission in July 2017 and would cause a financial hardship… what to a multi Billion $$$$ company, who got paid off or bullied?

    • Tom Neltner
      Posted August 12, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Geoff, thanks for the information. I am unaware of the correspondence you mention and we did not find it when we submitted a Freedom on Information Act request to FDA back in 2014. Do you have any details or documentation that you can share with me privately by email (tneltner@edf.org) or by phone.