The Washington State Senate is considering a bill that would conditionally restrict the use of perfluorinated chemicals in food packaging beginning in 2021, pending the outcome of an alternatives assessment to be completed by the state’s Department of Ecology (ECY). The bill, HB 2658, which passed the Washington State House on February 12, was read in the Senate on February 15 and referred to the Rules Committee on February 23.
The Washington State bill would ban the sale, distribution or use of PFAS chemicals in food packaging; however, the ban may not be implemented until Washington’s ECY identified safer alternatives. "Food package" is defined as “a package or packaging component that is intended for direct food contact and is comprised, in substantial part, of paper, paperboard, or other materials originally derived from plant fibers” and "PFAS chemicals" are defined as “a class of fluorinated organic chemicals containing at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom.”
In addition, the bill specifies that the alternatives assessment must:
- evaluate less toxic chemicals and nonchemical alternatives;
- follow the Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (ICC) alternatives assessment guidelines;
- evaluate chemical hazards, performance, cost, and availability, at minimum; and
- result in the publication of findings in the Washington State Register and a report to the Legislature by January 1, 2020.
If the initial alternatives assessment does not identify a safer alternative, then the ECY must continue to review the availability of safer alternatives to PFAS in food packaging annually by January 1 each subsequent year until a safer alternative is identified, after which the restrictions will take effect one year later.
By way of background, in January 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) delisted three, long-chain perfluoroalkyl ethyl containing food-contact substances (FCSs) as oil and water repellants for paper and paperboard for use in contact with aqueous and fatty foods. The following year, in March 2017, California introduced a bill, that would have prohibited “a food provider from serving, selling, offering for sale, or offering for promotional purposes prepared food or fast food in, on, or with take-out food service ware or packaging that contains a fluorinated chemical.” The bill did not pass before the end of the 2016/17 legislative session.