Regulatory changes create ripple effects for PFAs-related litigation

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large class of diverse chemicals: more than 12,000 have been identified.* PFAS substances contain at least one fully-fluorinated carbon atom, which makes them persistent in the environment. PFAS are used to make products resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Until recently, they have been viewed as a useful component of food packaging materials.

However, there is growing concern that PFAS will detrimentally impact human health by either migrating from packaging into food items and be ingested by consumers or ending up in landfills and migrating to soil and water. As a result, federal and state agencies are considering restrictions or bans of either individual PFAS compounds or PFAS as a class.

FDA actions

From the 1960s through the 2000s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized specific PFAS for use in food-contact applications. These applications were primarily used as oil and grease resistant coatings for food packaging materials. Under the food contact notification (FCN) program, FDA conducted scientific reviews of the substances to ensure their safety for food-contact uses.

In 2012 and again in 2020, FDA requested that some manufacturers voluntarily withdraw their PFAS products from use in food-contact applications. These withdrawals drew attention to FDA’s process for reviewing food-contact substances, and consumer groups now contend that the process is incomplete or inadequate. In January 2022, FDA issued a proposed rule​ seeking the authority to restrict uses of food-contact substances for non-safety-related reasons.