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Nearly every person in the United States currently has in their body dangerous amounts of chemicals proven to cause cancer, endocrine disruptions, liver and kidney failures, infertility, developmental difficulties, learning disorders, and immunodeficiencies. These chemicals are known collectively as “PFAS”—per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances—and they were designed for heavily industrial applications. However, over the last two decades, they have surreptitiously and successfully migrated from heavy machinery and building sites onto the many items that consumers use to cook, serve, or store their food. With the FDA’s blessing, PFAS are now ubiquitous in food contact materials, from where they leach directly into food. In fact, in the last 24 hours alone, many people likely ingested more of these same chemicals by the simple act of putting butter on their toast, drinking orange juice or milk, grabbing take-out food, eating baked goods, ordering pizza, making microwave popcorn, or having wrapped candy. Once ingested, PFAS stay in the human body for years, wreaking havoc in the meantime.

This article addresses the health, legal, and socioeconomic implications of PFAS in food contact materials and argues for comprehensive regulation. First, it examines the scientific evidence for the public health dangers posed by PFAS in food contact materials and the current regulatory shortcomings that allow these chemicals to make their way into our bloodstream unimpeded. Second, it surveys available remedies—including litigation, market pressures, and state and local legislation—and proposes that the most effective, efficient, and prompt solution to this public health crisis is a systematic regulatory approach. Specifically, the article calls on the FDA to: (1) rescind all current authorizations for fluorinated substances in food contact materials, (2) provide a more robust framework for processing future premarket authorization requests for these substances, and (3) impose strict and enforceable labeling requirements. Lastly, the article engages in a cost-benefit analysis and concludes that any costs associated with the proposed actions could be effectively mitigated. More importantly, these costs are worthwhile to prevent PFAS in food contact materials from continuing to deteriorate our nation’s health, damage consumers’ economic security, and deepen socioeconomic and racial inequalities.

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