SACRAMENTO – On Tuesday, the California State Legislature approved Assembly Bill 1200, which would ban the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS from paper, paperboard or plant-based food packaging, utensils and paper straws starting January 1, 2023.
The bill cleared the state Assembly floor with a bipartisan and unanimous vote of 60-0, days after the Senate voted to approve the legislation 36-0. The measure will be sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom who is expected to sign it into law.
Authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the bill also requires manufacturers to label cookware that contain toxic chemicals on product handles or coatings starting January 1, 2024. Manufacturers will also have to make public on their websites a list of those chemicals present in their pots, pans and other cookware beginning January 1, 2023.
Cookware companies will also be prohibited from making false marketing claims implying that products are PFAS-free.
“When it comes to our food, we must ensure safety,” said Ting. “Under federal regulations, companies are allowed to self-certify that a chemical they’ve added to food packaging is safe. That’s not good enough for me. Manufacturers should be mandated to use safer alternatives.”
In 2017, an Environmental Working Group report based on nationwide testing revealed most fast-food chains continued to use wrappers, bags and boxes coated with PFAS, even after having been alerted to health concerns about the substances more than a decade earlier.
“Food is 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 leaches from packaging into food. These chemicals are toxic at low concentrations and are ubiquitous in our environment and in our bodies.”
A recent study of drinking straws found that 36 of the 38 brands tested contained detectable levels of PFAS. The study also showed that PFAS in the straws transferred into water that traveled through the straws.
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.
AB 1200 also addresses concerns raised by a recent 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 claimed 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.
“Consumers have for too long been kept in the dark about PFAS and other chemicals in their cookware that could enter their food, and they are often misled about cooking products’ safety,” said Susan Little, EWG’s senior advocate for government affairs in California. “AB 1200 will impose a first-ever requirement that cookware manufacturers disclose harmful chemicals present in the surface coatings of pots, pans, and other products, and the bill will curb the use of false safety claims on packaging.”
“Disclosure of PFAS used in cookware helps families decide for themselves what’s right for them,” added Ting.
EWG, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Clean Water Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Environmental Health are co-sponsors of the bill.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org for more information.