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Bill to ban PFOA in food packaging rejected

By Jane Byrne , 01-Oct-2008
Last updated on 01-Oct-2008 at 12:04 GMT

A bill that would have banned the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in food packaging in California has been vetoed by the state governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In August, the California legislature approved Senate Bill 1313, which was sponsored by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and called for a ban on the manufacture, sale or distribution of any food contact substance containing PFOA or precursors to the chemical, in any concentration exceeding 10 parts per billion in the state beginning in 2010.

PFOA is one of a number of substances that form part of PFCs family, which are used in stain and grease-proof packaging for products like microwave popcorn, sweets and candy, fast food and pizzas.

As part of its complaint, the bill claimed that PFOA is considered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be a likely carcinogen and a chemical that induces breast tumours in animals.

Opposition to bill

DuPont Chemicals, in a letter to Schwarzenegger, argued that as regulators have evaluated PFOA and found it safe for its intended use, he should veto the bill.

“Consumer safety is a top priority. The best way to achieve this is to trust the duly appointed experts and scientists at our public regulatory agencies to review and determine the safety of these consumer products.

SB1313 does not allow this. It takes the decision out of the hands of these qualified experts,” stated the chemical company.

Schwarzenegger instead signed two bills that direct state scientists to devise regulations for reviewing whether chemicals should be restricted or banned and replaced with safer chemicals, and he said that this Green Chemistry Initiative “puts an end to the less effective ‘chemical-by-chemical’ bans of the past.”

However, EWG president Richard Wiles said that “these [two] bills do not establish a human health safety standard or public health goal for chemicals of concern or their prospective substitutes.”

On August 29, another EWG sponsored bill, which set out to ban the use of the chemical, bisphenol A, in polycarbonate baby bottles was also rejected, but this time in the California State Assembly, by 35 to 30 votes.

PFOA use in Europe

The European Commission told FoodProductionDaily.com that it was not currently aware of any discussions on use of PFOA relating to food safety, after ruling on its use as an emulsifier in Teflon back in 2005.

Under its ruling, the chemical is cleared for use - under certain conditions - in food contact plastics, though member states can individually decide on its acceptance in coatings.

PFOA in individual markets

A spokesperson for the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) confirmed that PFOA is permitted for food packaging in that market.

Amongst its uses, it is an intermediate in the manufacture of stain, oil and water-resistant additives for some textiles, coatings and food contact papers.

The use of PFOS was stopped in the paper industry in 2004 following the voluntary cessation of their production by the major US manufacturer 3M.

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