Navigating PFAS: A Deep Dive into Fresh Produce Packaging Regulations and Sustainability Initiatives


Food packaging is an integral part of our daily lives, ensuring the safety of our food and influencing both our health and the environment. However, lurking within some packaging materials are hidden threats, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly known as "forever chemicals." These substances are used to make packaging resistant to heat, water, oil, and corrosion, and they can be found in various types of food packaging, including paper bags, wrappers, molded fiber salad bowls, and single-use paper plates.

While PFAS-treated packaging may seem like a promising alternative to plastic, it poses risks to both health and the environment. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to immune system suppression, lower birth weight, and an increased risk of certain cancers. When fatty, salty, or acidic foods come into contact with PFAS-treated packaging, these chemicals can migrate into the food we eat. Moreover, when discarded packaging ends up in landfills or is incinerated, PFAS can contaminate water, soil, and air.


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Recognizing these potential hazards, health and environmental advocates are advocating for restrictions on PFAS use in food packaging. Some states, including Maine and New York, have taken legislative steps to limit or phase out the use of PFAS. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also been actively testing foods for PFAS since 2019, aiming to accurately estimate consumers' exposure and take action if health concerns arise.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been widely used in manufacturing flexible packaging solutions, particularly for food products. Their water and oil resistance make them suitable for food pouches and flexible packaging. However, recent regulations in several states are challenging the intentional use of PFAS in flexible food packaging.

In Maine, for instance, LD 1433 prohibits the sale of food packaging intentionally containing PFAS beyond incidental presence. Similarly, in New York, S 8817 prohibits the distribution of food packaging with intentionally added PFAS substances. These regulations necessitate careful assessment by flexible packaging manufacturers and fresh produce brand owners. While PFAS properties have been valuable, finding safer alternatives is crucial for balancing sustainability and functionality.

For Fox Packaging, achieving PFA-Free status on all flexible packaging specific to the fresh produce industry is a significant milestone. This accomplishment aligns with evolving regulations and demonstrates a commitment to providing safer products for consumers and contributing to a healthier environment.

As six states implement laws focusing on regulating the intentional use of PFAS in flexible food packaging, it's crucial to note that these regulations don't equate to a total ban on PFAS. Processing aids like fluorinated PPA play a unique and beneficial role in packaging manufacture, and feasible alternatives may not currently exist in sufficient quantity and quality.

In conclusion, the efforts by grocery chains and packaging manufacturers to reduce or eliminate PFAS from food packaging contribute to safer products and a healthier environment. As the landscape of regulations evolves, ongoing monitoring and exploration of innovative materials are essential to ensure a balance between product quality and environmental impact. Fox Packaging's PFA-Free status is a testament to their commitment to this cause, setting a standard for the fresh produce industry.


Navigating the Changing Landscape of PFAS Regulations in Food Packaging

In the realm of fresh produce packaging, the conversation around perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is gaining momentum. Six states have adopted laws to regulate the intentional use of PFAS in flexible food packaging, with these regulations set to take effect between the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2024. However, it's important to note that these regulations do not imply a complete ban on PFAS usage.

The Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) emphasizes the unique and highly beneficial role of processing aids, specifically fluorinated polypropylene (PPA), in the manufacturing of films used for packaging, including food packaging. Alternative chemicals currently do not exist in the necessary quantity and qualities to replace fluorinated PPA. Additionally, fluorinated PPA contributes positively to sustainable packaging by improving material flow and playing a vital role in the conversion of recycled content.


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Let's take a closer look at the regulations in each state:

Maine: LD 1433
- Adopted: 06/13/2019
- Prohibition: Sale of food packaging intentionally containing PFAS beyond incidental presence.
- Effective: January 1, 2022
- Note: A two-year notice is required if a "safer alternative" is determined.

New York: S 8817
- Adopted: 12/2/2020
- Prohibition: Distribution, sale, or offer of sale of food packaging containing intentionally added PFAS substances.
- Effective: December 31, 2022

Vermont: S 20
- Adopted: 05/18/2021
- Prohibition: Manufacture, sale, or distribution of food packaging intentionally containing PFAS.
- Effective: July 1, 2023
- Note: Two years' notice for any prohibition if a "safer alternative" is determined.

Connecticut: SB 837
- Adopted: 07/13/2021
- Prohibition: Inclusion of PFAS in food packaging if intentionally introduced.
- Effective: December 31, 2023

Minnesota: SF 20
- Adopted: 06/25/2021
- Prohibition: Inclusion of PFAS in food packaging if intentionally introduced.
- Effective: January 1, 2024

Rhode Island: SB 2044
- Adopted: 6/29/2022
- Prohibition: Manufacture, sale, or distribution of food packaging intentionally containing PFAS.
- Effective: January 1, 2024
- Note: No exemption for processing aids; efforts underway to amend legislation.

California: SB 343
- Adopted: 10/05/2021
- Prohibition: Distribution, sale, or offering of the sale of food packaging containing PFAS at or above 100 parts per million.
- Effective: January 1, 2023


The Biden-Harris Administration has launched a comprehensive plan to combat PFAS pollution, addressing the severe health problems caused by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that persist in the environment. The plan involves accelerated efforts from eight agencies to protect Americans from PFAS exposure across various settings, including air, drinking systems, and the food supply.

Key highlights of the plan include:

EPA’s PFAS Roadmap:
   - EPA Administrator Regan has launched a robust PFAS Roadmap outlining actions over the next three years.
   - The roadmap includes a national testing strategy, proposals to designate certain PFAS as hazardous substances, and actions to broaden and accelerate PFAS cleanup.
   - It builds on actions taken in 2021, such as updating toxicity assessments and developing a national primary drinking water regulation for PFAS.

Department of Defense (DOD):
   - DOD is actively addressing PFAS at its sites, conducting cleanup assessments at nearly 700 locations where PFAS was used or may have been released.
   - The Department has invested over $150 million in PFAS detection, treatment, and destruction, working closely with research institutions to develop scientific solutions.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
   - FDA is expanding testing of the food supply to estimate dietary exposure to PFAS.
   - The agency will proactively engage with states on PFAS contamination, announce additional testing results, and report on the phase-out of certain PFAS from food contact uses.

Department of Agriculture (USDA):
   - USDA is supporting research on PFAS in the food system, investigating causes and implications.
   - The Agricultural Research Service is focusing on PFAS in the environment and food supply, while the Food Safety and Inspection Service is developing analytical methods for PFAS testing in meat and poultry products.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS):
   - DHS is conducting PFAS inventories and establishing procedures for alerting and responding to PFAS presence at its facilities.
   - FEMA, within DHS, is addressing PFAS usage in firefighting foams, personal protective equipment, and emergency response settings.

Department of Health and Human Services:
   - CDC and ATSDR are conducting a groundbreaking study on PFAS exposure's health effects in eight states.
   - ATSDR released the Toxicological Profile on Perfluoroalkyls and is developing exposure assessments, while NIEHS is funding research on PFAS health effects.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA):
   - FAA is researching PFAS use in firefighting foam and exploring PFAS-free firefighting foam alternatives.

National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology:
   - NSF is funding innovative projects to address PFAS contamination, while NIST is identifying relative risks of PFAS in firefighting gear.

White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ):
   - CEQ is coordinating a high-level interagency capacity for PFAS actions.
   - A newly-formed Interagency Policy Committee on PFAS will work on coordinating PFAS response activities across government and developing policy strategies.

This plan represents a coordinated effort across various agencies to combat PFAS pollution, protect public health, and address contamination in different sectors of society.

Understanding the definition of "intentionally added" is crucial in interpreting these regulations. It refers to the deliberate use of a regulated metal or other chemicals in forming a package or packaging component, where their continued presence is desired to provide specific characteristics, appearance, or quality. However, the use of these substances as processing aids or in recycled materials is not considered intentional introduction.

As the regulatory landscape evolves, it is evident that finding a balance between packaging functionality, environmental impact, and compliance with emerging regulations is imperative for fresh produce packaging manufacturers. The journey toward sustainable and PFAS-free packaging requires continuous innovation, staying informed about evolving regulations, and embracing alternatives that prioritize both product quality and environmental responsibility.



Valuable Information for Flexible Packaging Purchasing Agents
1. PFAS Regulation for Flexible Food Packaging

   - Six states have adopted laws focusing on the intentional use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) in flexible food packaging.
   - Regulations take effect between the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2024.
   - Regulations do not imply a total ban on PFAS use. Processing aids like fluorinated PPA are crucial in packaging manufacture.
   - Alternative chemicals do not currently exist in sufficient quantity and quality to replace fluorinated PPA.

2. Packaging Requirements for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables:

   - Over 1,500 different types of packages are used for produce in the United States.
   - Container standardization can reduce costs, but recent trends lean toward a wider range of package sizes.
   - Properly designed produce containers should contain, protect, and identify produce, satisfying everyone from grower to consumer.
   - Modern produce packaging can be custom-engineered for each commodity to extend shelf life and reduce waste.

3. Types of Produce Packaging:

   - Packaging serves various functions, including recyclability, variety, sales appeal, shelf life, and containment.
   - Most produce packaging is recyclable or biodegradable.
   - Variety in packaging sizes caters to both processors/wholesale buyers and consumers.
   - High-quality graphics and distinctive branding boost sales appeal.
   - Custom-engineered packaging extends shelf life and reduces waste.

4. Air-Freighted Produce:

   - Air-freighted produce may require special packing, package sizes, and insulation.
   - Consult with freight companies about any specific packaging requirements.
   - USDA and state export agencies can provide additional information on export-related packaging.

Understanding packaging options is essential for cost-effectiveness and ensuring product quality throughout the supply chain!


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Partnering for a Sustainable Future in Fresh Produce Packaging

As we navigate the evolving landscape of fresh produce packaging, the commitment to sustainability, health, and environmental responsibility has never been more crucial. At Fox Packaging, we are proud to announce our achievement of PFA-Free status on all flexible packaging specific to the fresh produce industry—a significant step towards safer products and a healthier planet.

As the regulatory environment shifts and awareness around PFAS grows, it's essential for all stakeholders in the fresh produce industry to stay informed and adapt. Our dedication to providing innovative, sustainable packaging solutions remains unwavering despite the current perception of plastic packaging.

If you are a purchasing agent seeking valuable insights into PFAS regulations, exploring diverse packaging options, or aiming to enhance your understanding of the latest developments, we invite you to connect with us. At Fox Packaging, we believe in collaboration, and we're here to support your journey towards sustainable and compliant packaging.

How Can We Support Your Packaging Program?

1. Request Information: Reach out to us for more detailed information on PFAS regulations, sustainable packaging practices, and the innovative solutions we offer.

2. Sample Requests: Experience the quality and functionality of our PFA-Free flexible packaging firsthand by requesting samples tailored to your specific needs.

3. Schedule a Call: Our dedicated sales team is ready to discuss your unique requirements, provide insights, and guide you towards packaging solutions that align with your goals.

At Fox Packaging, we're not just providing packaging; we're shaping the future of fresh produce packaging together. Let's embark on this journey towards sustainability, health, and excellence. Contact us at or call our team at (956) 682-6176 and discover the difference that responsible packaging can make.
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For more detailed information, you can refer to the official White House fact sheet: [Biden-Harris Administration Launches Plan to Combat PFAS Pollution]

Topics: produce packaging, social responsibility, packaging design, PFAS