Sustained Outrage

FDA reaches deals on C8 food packaging phase-out

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration posted this potentially important announcement on its website, revealing the somewhat old news that three makers of C8-based food packaging have agreed to voluntarily withdraw those products from the market. The FDA announcement spun it this way:

Recent scientific studies have raised safety concerns with one type of perfluorinated chemicals, known as C8 compounds. These compounds have perfluorinated chain lengths of 8-carbons (C8) or longer. The studies indicate that these C8 compounds persist in the environment and can have toxic effects on humans and animals.

In response to these studies, FDA initiated a comprehensive review of the available data on C8 compounds and worked with several manufacturers to remove greaseproofing agents containing C8 perfluorinated compounds from the marketplace. As a result of FDA’s initiative, these manufacturers volunteered to stop distributing products containing C8 compounds in interstate commerce for food-contact purposes as of October 1, 2011. Existing supplies of these greaseproofing agents already in the marketplace and paper products with these greaseproofing agents can be used until they run out.

The industry’s voluntary action to cease using greaseproofing agents containing C8 perfluorinated compounds means that these products will be out of the marketplace in a relatively short period of time. Because the potential danger from C8 compounds is a result of chronic exposure to such substances, FDA has determined that the exposure which will occur during this sell-off period will not impact public health. The agency will also conduct a market survey to determine whether any manufacturers are still using greaseproofing agents which contain C8 compounds.

We’ve written before in the Gazette about the link between food packaging and C8 exposure (see here, here and here), and today’s announcement comes just after the C8 Science Panel — which has linked chemical exposure to human disease — announced last week that it needs more time to complete all of its work. The FDA announcement was first reported on the website Food Poisoning Bulletin. There’s also been some very interesting reporting on C8 issues recently from Callie Lyons, including this story and a follow-up piece.

Keep in mind that makers of these products had already agreed to a voluntary phase out in a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, so the meaning of FDA’s announcement is not exactly clear yet. Leann Brown, spokeswoman for the Environmental Working Group told me today:

This isn’t a groundbreaking announcement. Several companies have reaffirmed that they are in the process of voluntarily phasing out these toxic chemicals from commerce, and the FDA is officially acknowledging their intention.