The OECD PFASs and Alternatives in Food Packaging report

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This OECD report addresses the commercial availability and current uses of alternatives (chemical and non-chemical) to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in food packaging (paper and paperboard). The work was conducted within the framework of the OECD/UNEP Global Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFC) Group.

The study is based on reviewed publicly available information from worldwide sources, including from the OECD/UNEP Global PFC Group members and additional stakeholders. The review has been supplemented by in-depth discussions with key players from the value chain for food packaging. The report is based upon a data set which includes information from PFAS producers, non-fluorinated alternative producers and publicly available literature.

The findings of this work are as follows.

Short-chain (SC) PFAS and non-fluorinated

The short-chain (SC) PFAS and non-fluorinated alternatives to long-chain (LC) PFAS are available on the global market and can be used to produce paper and board for use in food packaging.

There are 28 fluorinated substances currently included on the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) list to confer grease/oil/water resistance to paper and board. These are reported to be used in 19 formulations (DTSC, 2020[1]).

The German Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR) recommended list contains 12 fluorinated substances that are listed as surface refining and coating agents and which are likely to be used to confer grease and water resistance for food packaging.

On performance alone, both SC PFAS and non-fluorinated alternatives identified in this study can meet the high grease and water repellence specifications required for the common food and pet food packaging uses. For some applications, non-fluorinated alternatives have a performance advantage over SC PFAS.

The current market share of non-fluorinated alternatives appears to be approximately 1% or less. The key reason for the current lack of market share of non-fluorinated alternatives is the higher cost of non-fluorinated alternatives, which results in paper and board for food packaging between 11-32% more expensive than food packaging usingSC PFAS.

There are technical challenges to moving from LC PFAS to SC PFAS and from SC.

PFAS to non-fluorinated alternatives. However, the main obstacle to substitution from SC PFAS to non-fluorinated alternatives is the cost differential. If there are sufficiently strong reasons for the value chain to pay for the premium non-fluorinated alternatives, it will do so.

About the OECD

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an intergovernmental organization in which representatives of 36 industrialized countries in North and South America, Europe and the Asia and Pacific region, as well as the European Commission, meet to co-ordinate and harmonize policies, discuss issues of mutual concern, and work together to respond to international problems. Most of the OECD’s work is carried out by more than 200 specialized committees and working groups composed of member country delegates. Observers from several countries with special status at the OECD, and from interested international organizations, attend many of the OECD’s workshops and other meetings.

Committees and working groups are served by the OECD Secretariat, located in Paris, France, which is organized into directorates and divisions.

The Environment, Health and Safety Division publishes free-of-charge documents in twelve different series: Testing and Assessment; Good Laboratory Practice and Compliance Monitoring; Pesticides; Biocides; Risk Management; Harmonization of Regulatory Oversight in Biotechnology; Safety of Novel Foods and Feeds; Chemical Accidents; Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers; Emission Scenario Documents; Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials; and Adverse Outcome Pathways.

More information about the Environment, Health and Safety Programme and EHS publications is available on the OECD’s website.

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