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San Francisco moves to ban food containers made with fluorinated chemicals

Decision to enact prohibition, forbid plastic straws lies with mayor

by Cheryl Hogue
August 2, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 32


Photo shows three young people eating noodles, fried chicken, and french fries out of cardboard takeout containers.
Credit: Shutterstock

In what is perhaps a first-of-its-kind action, San Francisco is close to enacting a ban on single-use food containers, such as carryout boxes, that are made with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs).

Many paper-based containers designed for contact with food are coated with fluorochemicals that make them resistant to grease and liquids. San Francisco’s >pending ordinance cites concerns about the persistence of fluorinated substances and their ability to leach from containers into food.

“The use of PFAS in food packaging is already thoroughly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has determined the PFAS currently used in food packaging are safe for their intended use,” Jon Corley, a spokesperson for the chemical industry group American Chemistry Council, says. “This potential ban is unnecessary, contrary to sound science and will provide no further benefits to public health or the environment.”

The ordinance, which the city’s board of supervisors passed unanimously July 31, would also prohibit the use of plastic utensils and drinking straws within the city. The measure now goes to San Francisco Mayor London Breed for signature or veto. She could also allow the ordinance become law without her signature.

If enacted, the ban will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

San Francisco has already banned single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam containers for carryout food and beverages as well as meat trays, egg cartons, plates, and cups made of the foam.


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