Proposal for a ban on PFAS in the EU and the implications for the food industry
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has published the proposal restricting around 10,000 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Prepared by authorities in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, the proposal aims to reduce PFAS emissions into the environment by imposing a ban on the manufacture, placing on the market and use of PFAS.
A six-month open consultation by ECHA’s scientific committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) will start on 22 March 2023.
What are PFAS?
In the proposal, PFAS are defined as “Any substance that contains at least one fully fluorinated methyl (-CF¬3-) or methylene (-CF2-) carbon atom (without any H/CL/Br/I)”. This definition is applied to more than 10,000 PFAS. A few PFAS subgroups that are expected to completely mineralise in the environment are excluded from the scope of the restriction.
Adverse effect of PFAS
PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” due to concern about their persistence in the environment – some can take decades or even centuries to degrade. Some PFAS are also under scrutiny regarding their potential to have an adverse effect on human health, with concerns relating to carcinogenicity and immunotoxicity. The authorities estimate that about 4.4 million tonnes of PFAS would be accumulated in the environment over the next 30 years.
Usage of PFAS
PFAS are widely used in our daily lives, such as in firefighting foams, semiconductors, lubricants, food contact materials (FCMs), and medical devices. For example, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is one of PFAS and is used as non-stick coating on frying pans. Also, some fluoropolymers are used as polymer processing aids to produce high quality plastics including FCMs. If the proposal passes, the ban is expected to have a huge impact on the food industry.
According to the proposal, the manufacture, placing on the market, and the use of PFASs would be banned. The proposed transition period is 18 months after entry into force, though derogations extend the date under which the ban would apply for some uses of PFAS. For example, a 5-year derogation after the transition period is indicated for fluoropolymers and perfluoropolyethers for use in FCMs.
A six-month open consultation by ECHA’s scientific committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) will start on 22 March and end on 22 September 2023. An online information session will be held on 5 April 2023. At the end of the consultation, ECHA will submit the proposal to the European Commission. The European Commission is expected to make a decision in 2025, with the restriction expected to enter into force in 2026 or 2027.
How we can help
Members of Leatherhead Food Research, can track the latest news on this restriction proposal through our weekly Legal Highlights newsletter. Follow the link to learn more about Leatherhead’s membership.
In addition, our sister company TSG Consulting can support companies across industry in understanding the implications of the proposed ban, as well as preparing comments for submission to the consultation. Follow the link to learn more about how to get ready for the new PFAS restriction.