Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed legislation that bans the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS from paper, paperboard or plant-based food packaging, utensils and paper straws, effective Jan. 1, 2023.
Authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the law also requires manufacturers to label cookware that contains toxic chemicals on product handles or coatings, starting Jan. 1, 2024.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, manufacturers will also have to make public on their websites a list of those chemicals present in their pots, pans and other cookware.
Cookware companies will also be prohibited from making false marketing claims implying that products are PFAS-free.
“Gov. Newsom understands the dangers ‘forever chemicals’ pose to Californians and is signing sensible laws to protect them from needless exposure to PFAS,” said Susan Little, Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) senior advocate for California government affairs. “In addition to banning PFAS from food packaging, this new law alerts consumers to their use in nonstick coatings for pots, pans and baking sheets.
“For too long, consumers have been kept in the dark about harmful chemicals used in their cookware that could enter their food, and they’re often misled about the safety of their cookware and bakeware.
“For the first time, cookware manufacturers must disclose on labels the chemicals present in the surface coatings of their products,” Little added. “The new law will also curb the use of false safety claims on packaging. For example, the law prevents companies from saying a product is free of a chemical like PFOA if another compound in the same family is present.”
In 2017, an EWG report based on nationwide testing revealed that most fast food chains continued to use wrappers, bags and boxes coated with PFAS, despite the companies being told about PFAS health concerns more than a decade earlier.
“Food is considered a major source of exposure to PFAS, and there is no reason these chemicals should be in food packaging,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., a senior scientist at EWG. “PFAS can leach from packaging into food, and they are toxic at incredibly low concentrations.”
A study published in Chemosphere in August found that 36 of 38 paper drinking straw brands tested contained detectable levels of PFAS. The study also showed that PFAS in the straws transferred into water that traveled through the straws.
AB 1200 also addresses concerns raised by a report from the Ecology Center that found 80 percent of cooking pans tested contained PFAS coatings, and 20 percent of baking dishes contained the chemicals. The report also found that the packaging of some pans contained claims that the products did not contain one type of PFAS, even though other PFAS were used on the coatings.
The study also reported that another toxic chemical, BPA, was found on the tested cookware surfaces.
“PFAS chemicals have been a hidden threat to our health for far too long. I applaud the Governor for signing my bill, which allows us to target, as well as limit, some of the harmful toxins coming into contact with our food,” said Ting.
PFAS are a class of thousands of chemicals linked to increased risk of cancer, harm to fetal development and reduced vaccine effectiveness. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment and build up in our blood and organs.
Safer alternatives to PFAS have proven to be as effective at repelling water and grease.
“This law adds momentum to the fight against nonessential uses of PFAS,” said Andrews. “California has joined the effort to protect Americans from the entire family of toxic forever chemicals.”
The law, known as 1200, was cosponsored by EWG, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Clean Water Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Environmental Health.
California follows Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington in the list of states banning PFAS from food packaging.
The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020 also bans the use of PFAS in food packaging for military meals after October.