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Fast-Food Giant to Phase Out PFAS from Food Packaging

Posted on 5/4/2021 by Lauren Scott

One of the largest multinational fast-food chains announced plans to eliminate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from its consumer-facing packaging in US and Canada by the end of 2021.

The company’s announcement follows a study conducted by a public interest group to analyze packaging from six fast-food chains. The study found that all six fast-food chains tested likely use PFAS in at least one piece of their food packagings. This could be anything from burger wrappers and salad bowls to chip containers and cookie bags.

The fast-food chain also outlined plans to establish a “restrictive substances list,” consider straw-less lids, and test out innovative packaging ideas among other options to enhance consumer packaging sustainability.

This effort would be one of the more aggressive timelines to phase out PFAS among large-scale fast-food chains. Similar companies announced a phase-out by as late as 2025. Many non-fast-food grocery providers are also planning to phase out potentially harmful chemicals. Last year, Amazon announced that it would ban a series of toxic chemicals from food packaging used on its Amazon Kitchen brand.

Latest EPA Actions on PFAS

On April 27, 2021, new EPA Administrator Michael Regan issued a memo to senior EPA leadership announcing the establishment of an EPA Council on PFAS to “develop coordinated policies, regulations and communications” concerning PFAS pollution and its impacts on public health and the environment. 

In February 2021, EPA reissued final regulatory determinations for drinking water contaminants on the fourth Contaminant Candidate List (CCL 4). EPA decided to regulate two of the eight contaminants reviewed, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). PFOA and PFOS are two of the most well-known, prevalent PFAS chemicals. 

Now that a determination to regulate has been made, EPA will begin the rulemaking process to create a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation, or NPDWR, for each contaminant. An NPDWR typically includes a Maximum Contaminant Level, or MCL. 

TSCA Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for LCPFAC

In January 2019, EPA amended an existing Significant New Use Rule, or SNUR, under the TSCA program for specific types of PFAS chemical substances known as long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate (LCPFAC).

To help stakeholders comply with the new rule, EPA released a guide, Compliance Guide for Imported Articles Containing Surface Coatings Subject to the Long-Chain Perfluoroalkyl Carboxylate and Perfluoroalkyl Sulfonate Chemical Substances Significant New Use Rule. Published on January 19, 2021, the guide addresses compliance issues that may arise among US businesses.

Specifically, the guide defines “surface coating” and identifies which articles and businesses are subject to the regulation. It also describes the actions that are required and those that are prohibited and summarizes the notification requirements of the Significant New Use Rule.

A SNUR requires persons to notify EPA before manufacturing, importing, or processing the covered chemical for any use associated with the rule. 

EPA’s PFAS Action Plan

EPA’s actions concerning PFAS chemicals are guided by the Action Plan set forth in 2019. In addition to starting the process for regulating PFAS in drinking water, EPA plans to list PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances and to issue interim groundwater cleanup recommendations for contaminated sites. In June 2020, EPA added 172 PFAS chemicals to the EPCRA Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting list.

EPA will also monitor PFAS in nationwide drinking water under the Unregulated Contaminated Monitoring Program and develop new research methods to detect PFAS chemicals in drinking water, groundwater, and soil. 

Complete Environmental Compliance Training

Managing compliance with the many complex EPA programs that affect your business—from the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to TSCA, EPCRA, CERLCA, and more—is a major challenge. If you’re new to environmental compliance or need an update on changing EPA rules, sign up for the Complete Environmental Regulations course.

Join Lion on May 11–12 for the Complete Environmental Regulations learn the latest updates to Federal environmental regulations live with an expert environmental instructor. This in-depth, live training helps you make the right decisions about EPA compliance.
Can’t make it? A self-paced, online option is also available.

Or develop expertise in one of these EPA compliance components online:

Clean Air Act Regulations Online
TSCA Regulations Online
Clean Water Act & SDWA Regulations Online
Superfund and Right-to-Know Act Regulations Online 

Tags: Clean Water Act, EPA, PFAS

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