The FDA announced Monday its intention to ban three dangerous chemicals found in food packaging including pizza boxes, popcorn bags, and fast food sandwich wrappers. The three grease-resistant chemicals being banned have been linked to cancer and birth defects.
The carcinogenic chemicals in question are perfluorinated compounds, also known as PFCs, used in packaging by numerous fast food companies as well as in Teflon-coated pots and pans. According to several studies backed by the American Cancer Society, the use of Teflon itself is not suspected to cause cancer, but the presence of these chemicals, particularly in contaminated water, can be very harmful.
The chemicals in question are no longer in production in the United States as of 2011, so some perceive this ban as a mere formality. While the ban will stop the importation of products made with the chemicals into the U.S., there are nearly 100 other PFC compounds currently being used in food packaging that pose the same health hazards, according to a recent news release from Environmental Working Group.
"Industrial chemicals that pollute people's blood clearly have no place in food packaging," said EWG President Ken Cook. “But it's taken the FDA more than 10 years to figure that out, and it’s banning only three chemicals that aren't even made anymore.”
The order to ban these chemicals is set to go into effect on February 1. This is more than five years after EWG and other advocates started informing the public of the dangers of these chemicals, and eight years after the California Legislature approved a bill to ban some PFCs in packaging. This bill was vetoed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The ban is in part the result of a petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Food Safety, the Breast Cancer Fund, the Center for Environmental Health, Clean Water Action, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Children's Environmental Health Network, Improving Kids' Environment and EWG.
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