FDA: 4 manufacturers to phase out potentially harmful substance commonly found in fast-food containers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that several manufacturers have voluntarily agreed to stop producing substances known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS), which grease-proof paper and paperboard food packaging, due to a potential health risk in humans.

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There 5,000 different types of PFAS, according to the FDA. Many of the chemicals are resistant to grease, oil, water and heat, making them popular substances used in a variety of applications, including in stain- and water-resistant fabrics, carpeting, cleaning products, paints and fire-fighting foams.

Some popular products PFAS are found in include:

-Pizza boxes

-Fast food wrappers

-To-go containers

Despite the usefulness of the chemicals, PFAS are not biodegradable, which is harmful to the environment.

A study was conducted on rodents by FDA scientists earlier this year and revealed that, while the rodents did receive higher doses, evidence of PFAS that contained 6:2 fluorotelomer alcohol (6:2 FTOH) could potentially cause human health risks due to the high exposure to foods, according to the FDA.

Beginning in January of 2021, three manufacturers will start a three-year phase-out of their sales of certain substances that contain 6:2 FTOH.

A fourth manufacturer informed the FDA in 2019 that they have stopped sales of their short-chain PFAS products in the U.S. market.

Once the phase-out has been successfully completed, it will take up to 18 months to exhaust any existing stock of paper or paperboard products that contain this substance, according to the FDA.

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While the study did not conclusively say that high exposure to PFAS will cause significant health risks in humans, the results from the rodent testing warranted further study.

“Today's announcement demonstrates the FDA's commitment to advance the science surrounding potential health risks of PFAS, and work with industry to take steps to reduce consumer exposure to certain PFAS consistent with scientific advances and understanding. The FDA will continue to share further updates as our ongoing work on potential PFAS exposure in foods continues,” according to an FDA news release.