UK supermarkets to phase out “Forever Chemicals”, PFAS, from Envirotech Online food packaging
New details published by the environmental charity, Fidra, show that 5 of the top 10 UK supermarkets are taking voluntary action to reduce or remove PFAS from their own-brand food packaging, 2 aiming to be PFAS-free by the end of 2021.
Environmental charity Fidra has called for the elimination of PFAS, chemicals of health and environmental concern, since testing has shown widespread use in food packaging in the UK. In February 2021, Fidra handed over nearly 12,000 signatures to CEOs of Aldi, ASDA, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Morrisons, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, urging action to eliminate these highly persistent chemicals food packaging.
New details posted on Fidra’s free PFAS website show that 5 of 10 supermarkets approached are now actively working with suppliers to reduce the use of PFAS, Morrisons and Marks and Spencer to remove PFAS from food packaging on their own. brand by the end of 2021, and Iceland is already PFAS-free on all its own-brand products.
PFAS have many different uses, including water and grease protection for paper, cardboard, and compostable food packaging. With the food industry heavily focused on moving away from single-use plastics, the market share of these alternative forms of packaging is likely to increase dramatically. Fidra has worked with UK supermarkets to ensure that the benefits of reducing plastic are not compromised by an increase in harmful and persistent environmental pollutants, PFAS.
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances) are a group of highly persistent industrial chemicals associated with a wide range of health and environmental problems, from cancer in humans to neurological problems in animals There is also scientific evidence more and more people linking exposure to PFAS to immune suppression, reduced vaccine effectiveness and increased risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19.
PFAS are known as “eternal chemicals” because some are known to take over 1,000 years to decompose. As such, almost all PFAS ever produced are still in our environment today, and concentrations are increasing. PFAS are found in the air, oceans, soil and wildlife around the world. They accumulate to dangerous levels in European drinking water, can be absorbed by crops and contaminate our food chains. 99% of those tested found PFAS in their blood, with intake levels for infants and young children approximately double that of adults. Babies are now born with PFAS already in their bodies.
Once in the environment, there is no effective method of large-scale remediation. To avoid pollution, the production of PFAS must be stopped at the source. The EU has already pledged to ban all PFASs in all sectors, unless their use is considered essential for society.
Denmark implemented a ban on PFAS in food packaging in July 2020. Global food companies such as McDonalds and Nestlé are working to meet targets to remove all PFAS from their food packaging.
In addition to supporting voluntary measures by retailers to phase out PFAS, Fidra is also calling for UK legislation to prevent this continuing source of harmful pollution. Fidra believes that immediate and voluntary initiatives such as those demonstrated by UK supermarkets are an essential first step towards lasting change.
Fidra is now calling on – UK food retailers to follow these examples and commit to phase out all PFAS from food packaging within a clear and ambitious time frame, the UK government to ban the use of all PFAS in food packaging food packaging by 2022; and the UK government to include a commitment and timeline to phase out PFAS from all non-essential uses in the next UK ChemicalsStrategy.
Dr Kerry Dinsmore of Fidra said: “We are absolutely delighted to see so many large UK supermarkets listening to their customers and taking proactive action on this important environmental issue. This clearly demonstrates that there are alternatives to PFAS and calls for UK-wide legislation to ensure these changes are replicated across the food industry. PFAS must not have a place in the future of sustainable food packaging, and these recent actions are a brilliant first step towards this goal.