The end to forever chemicals in snack packaging?

In February 2024, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced​​ grease-proofing materials containing per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), or forever chemicals, would no longer be used in new food packaging such as microwave popcorn bags, fast-food wrappers and takeout boxes sold to US consumers.

In a nod to progressing food chemical safety, eliminating PFAS signals the end to a “major source of dietary exposure to PFAS”, Jim Jones, deputy commissioner for Human Foods at the FDA, said in a statement.

With the FDA recognizing the move as an important milestone to protect US consumers from potentially harmful food-contact chemicals, pressure is growing for voluntary actions and further policy guidance in the wider sector.

“With the growing recognition of the problems PFAS cause from cancer to fertility issues, PFAS are facing increasing international scrutiny that businesses and governments need to adapt to,” Megan Kirton, project officer for environmental charity Fidra, told Bakery&Snacks.

In March 2024, research conducted by Swiss-based Food Packaging Forum found 68 PFAS in food packaging and only 39 of these complete with testing data to check for hazards.​​ The majority of these PFAS were not detailed in regulatory or industry documents, signalling the need for more transparency, education and action.

Chemicals in snack packaging

Pic: GettyImages/Valeriy Lushchikov

“Consumers cannot see whether a specific packaging releases harmful chemicals, such as forever chemicals PFAS, into foods,” Dr Birgit Geueke, senior scientific officer at the Food Packaging Forum Foundation, told this site.