Teflon Woes Still Sticking to Food Packaging

June 11, 2008

Perfluorocarbons (PFCs, including DuPont's Teflon product) are once again making headlines for their potentially toxic role in food packaging.

Currently before the Calif. State Senate is SB 1313, sponsored by Sen. Ellen Corbett, which seeks to "prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution of any food contact substance, as defined, that contains perfluorinated compounds, as defined, in any concentration exceeding 10 parts per billion." This bill was apparently triggered in part by DuPont whistleblower Glen Evers.

  • Sen. Corbett press: Darby Kernan, 916-651-4010. Release.

PFCs have been popular in food packaging for their ability to deter grease and stains. But PFCs can leach into food (especially, but not exclusively, when heated) and break down into perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) — both of which EPA has classified as "likely carcinogens." These substances have been found in microwave popcorn, fast food packaging, candy wrappers, and pizza boxes.

California's SB 1313 requires the "removal of perfluorinated chemicals in food packaging by 2010, and directs manufacturers to use safe alternatives that are not known-or-likely carcinogens, or cause developmental, neural, or reproductive problems."

This would put Calif. five years ahead of EPA's planned voluntary phaseout ("stewardship program") of PFCs in food packaging, currently slated for completion by 2015. The first company progress reports under this program were released Oct. 31,2007.

  • EPA program contact: Toni Krasnic, 202-564-0984.

At DuPont (which does not publicly list any press contact info), VP of Risk Management Kathryn K. McCord, 302-999-5303, is listed as the contact in that company's 2007 progress report. Contact info for the other seven companies involved in the program is listed in each company's report to EPA.

The goal of EPA's program is to encourage manufacturers to replace PFCs with safer, greener alternatives. On June 9, the Environmental Working Group released a new research report on PFCs in foodpackaging: "Credibility Gap: Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging and DuPont's Greenwashing." EWG contends that "green chemicals the industry is pushing as a replacement may be no safer."