Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: California Safer Food Packaging and Cookware Act of 2021
Overview: The California Assembly has approved a bill that will ban PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), also known as toxic “forever chemicals,” from food packaging and will require warning labels on cookware that contain them.
Population: 39.6 million
Food policy category: Food supply and distribution, preventive health
Program goals: To remove toxic chemicals from the environment, to protect wildlife and water supplies, and to protect human health.
How it works: PFAS help to make materials non-stick, as well as grease- and water-resistant. Starting on January 1, 2023, PFAS will be banned from paper-based food packaging such as paper wrappers, liners, bags, sleeves, plates, bowls, straws, and takeout containers. Then, starting January 1, 2024, cookware manufacturers will be required to label their products to disclose the presence of harmful chemicals, including PFAS and BPA (Bisphenol A).
Progress to date: The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting in February 2021, passed in the Senate on September 3 and in the Assembly on September 7. It was sent to Governor Gavin Newsom for signing on September 13.
Why it is important: PFAS are man-made chemicals that do not break down and may have adverse effects on human health. Not only do PFAS leach into the food with which they come in contact, but they can also infiltrate the air, soil, and water supplies when disposed of in landfills. PFAS exposure has been associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain types of cancer, thyroid disruption, and, in children, a decreased vaccine response.
Program/Policy initiated: The PFAS ban on paper products will go into effect in January 2023.
Point of contact: N/A
Similar practices: California is one of several states that have recently banned PFAS from food packaging, along with Connecticut, Maine, New York, Vermont, and Washington.
Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet been conducted.
- Exposures to Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS): Potential Risks to Reproductive and Children’s Health (Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care)
- FDA Ban On PFAS In Food Packaging Brought To Forefront (The National Law Review)
- Health Risks of Widely Used Chemicals May be Underestimated (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)
- Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) in Food and Human Dietary Intake: A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry)
- AB-1200 Plant-Based Food Packaging: Cookware: Hazardous Chemicals. (California Legislative Information)
- Basic Information on PFAS (Environmental Protection Agency)
- CA Bill to Reduce Toxic PFAS Exposures Passed by Legislature (Natural Resources Defense Council)
- California Assembly Approves Bill to Ban Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ From Food Packaging (Environmental Working Group)
- California Lawmakers Approve Bill to Ban Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Food Packaging and Straws (Environmental Working Group)
- California Lawmakers Ban “Forever Chemicals” From Food Packaging Statewide (Green Matters)
- California Leaders Approve Bill to Ban PFAS in Paper-Based Food Packaging (Natural Resources Defense Council)
- Governor Lamont Signs Legislation Banning Use Of PFAS-Containing Firefighting Foam in October, Phases Out PFAS-Containing Food Packaging In 2023 (State of Connecticut Office of Governor Ned Lamont)
- Maine Bans Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ Under Groundbreaking New Law (The Guardian)
- New York Bans Dangerous, Indestructible ‘Forever Chemicals’ From Pizza Boxes and Other Food Packaging (The New York State Senate)
- Risk Management for Bisphenol A (BPA) (Environmental Protection Agency)
- Vermont Governor Signs Restrictions on PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ (The Hill)
- What are the Health Effects of PFAS? (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)