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FDA Reaches Voluntary Agreement with Manufacturers to Phase Out Certain Short-Chain PFAS in Food Packaging

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that manufacturers of certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) used for grease proofing in paper and paperboard for food packaging (for example, as coatings on some fast food wrappers, to-go boxes, and pizza boxes) have voluntarily agreed to phase out sales of these substances for use as food contact substances in the United States, following new analyses of data raising questions about potential human health risks from chronic dietary exposure.

Starting in January 2021, three manufacturers will begin a three-year phase out of their sales of certain substances that contain 6:2 FTOH for use as food contact substances in the U.S. marketplace.  It may take up to 18 months after the phase-out period to exhaust existing stocks of paper and paperboard products containing these food contact substances from the market. A fourth manufacturer informed the FDA in 2019 that they have stopped sales of their short-chain PFAS products in the U.S. market.

According to the FDA, this phase out balances uncertainty about the potential for public health risks with minimizing potential market disruptions to food packaging supply chains during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Earlier this year, FDA scientists published their analyses of studies on certain PFAS used in food packaging. Their analyses of data from rodent studies raised questions about a subset of short-chain PFAS that contain 6:2 fluorotelomer alcohol (6:2 FTOH)

U.S. Department of Labor Targets Forced Labor in Fashion Industry

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) has allocated $22 million to target the growing issue of abusive labor practices in the fashion industry, and specifically, to combat the use of child and forced labor in supply chains, especially in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Clothing production is booming. In fact, according to a report by sustainability consultant McKinsey & Company, clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014.  The global market now produces more than 100 billion garments a year, according to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.  At the same time, driven by “fast fashion,” the amount of wear we get from clothes has dropped by 36 percent, with almost 65 percent of all garments ending up in a landfill or being incinerated.

With more clothing being produced, production supply chains have already become a concern, raising concerns for the potential of forced labor, human trafficking, and/or indentured child labor. The DOL estimates that there are currently 25 million people in forced labor, and of those, over 4 million are children.

There are efforts to counteract this problem. For example, the DOL maintains a list of products (and corresponding locations) that are believed to be at higher risk of being produced by forced or indentured child labor.  Importantly, there probably many more international occurrences that are not identified on this list.

Where Are the Funds Going?

According to the DOL, the funding will be used to:

  • Support the International Labor Organization’s work with
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