Is there PFAS in my burger, my fries, my lipstick and my underwear? How PFAS Litigation Became a Game of Whack-A-Mole. | Goldberg Segalla

The world’s most recognizable food chains are under scrutiny these days, not for the nutritional value of their products, but for their iconic food packaging. Just last month, a class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Illinois alleged that a popular chain was hiding the presence of PFAS in its food products from consumers. A few weeks later, another plaintiff sued another beloved fast-food chain in federal court in California, challenging the claim that it uses sustainable packaging and real ingredients. As the kings of fast food take the first hits, it seems that all fast casual retailers, even chains and branded “healthy” grocers, are under attack for their use of PFAS food packaging. The plaintiffs, caught up in the hype around PFAS and its alleged link to health problems including immune system suppression, low birth weight, reproductive problems, developmental delays in children and a increased risk of certain cancers, do not hesitate to challenge all consumer products. So plaintiffs’ bar not only targets your guilty culinary pleasures, but your favorite lipstick, your favorite mascara, and even your underwear – the disposable variety that is – are ambushed by allegations of negligent misrepresentation, fraud and breaches of consumer protection law.

Food packaging

At its best, PFAS, created when the elements carbon and fluorine are fused together, is grease resistant. Although it looks like paper or cardboard, PFAS packaging prevents salad dressing and frying oil from leaking, ultimately serving as a worthy alternative to ill-regarded polystyrene and plastic containers. However, the purported concern is that PFAS in packaging, for example, migrates into the food itself, making exposure clear and direct through consumption.

Independent product testing – the data

Last month, Consumer Reports released the results of its independent testing of 118 packaging products from twenty-four well-known US restaurant and grocery store chains, identifying PFAS in many food packaging. The allegedly forever dangerous chemicals were found in more than half of the food packaging tested, ranging from paper bags for French fries to hamburger wrappers to salad bowls made of molded fibers.

Threshold for PFAS in food packaging?

Today, scientists are still debating what level of intentional PFAS is safe. California has officially banned intentionally added PFAS. As of January 2023, paper food packaging in California must contain less than 100 parts per million (ppm) of organic fluorine. Europe promotes a more aggressive organic fluorine threshold at 20 ppm. Of the 118 products recently tested by Consumers Reports, nearly 37 had organic fluorine levels at 20 ppm and 22 products were above 100 ppm.

Cosmetics and Panties

Some scientists have speculated that PFAS can enter the bloodstream by means other than oral ingestion, including absorption through the skin and tear ducts. Well-established cosmetic icons have been embroiled in allegations of negligent misrepresentation, fraud and violation of consumer protection laws, where plaintiffs allege the makeup is not clean, pure and free of chemicals from hash as advertised. More recently, in federal court in California, plaintiffs filed a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that a cosmetics company failed to disclose to consumers that its mascara products contained PFAS. Perhaps most unexpected of all, however, is the siege of absorbent period underwear based again on complaints and claims of skin absorption through absorbent period panties.

What happens next?

With growing consumer concern about the health and environmental risks of PFAS in food packaging, many food retailers are claiming to either phase out or actively reduce PFAS, pointing out that because PFAS are so common in the environment, elimination for not detecting would be nearly impossible. . Nevertheless, in response to recent litigation, many food chains have pledged to eliminate the use of all fluorinated compounds from their packaging materials globally by 2025. Taking into account the strategy of food retailers, we could see the cosmetics and disposable underwear industries, as well as other consumer product manufacturers, move proactively towards reducing or completely eliminating the use of PFAS.

Gone are the days of simply agonizing over the calorie footprint of your fast food craze. Today, some consumers may ruminate on the chemical composition of the packaging, leading to the question whether food labels will no longer be limited to brand and nutritional values, but will one day soon disclose the chemical composition of the food. packaging itself.

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