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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Albany, California » Western Regional Research Center » Bioproducts Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #379520

Research Project: Bioproducts and Biopolymers from Agricultural Feedstocks

Location: Bioproducts Research

Title: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and their alternatives in paper food packaging

item Glenn, Gregory - Greg
item SHOGREN, RANDALL - World Centric
item JIN, XING - World Centric
item Orts, William
item Hart-Cooper, William
item OLSON, LAUREN - World Centric

Submitted to: Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/6/2021
Publication Date: 2/2/2021
Citation: Glenn, G.M., Shogren, R., Jin, X., Orts, W.J., Hart-Cooper, W.M., Olson, L. 2021. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and their alternatives in paper food packaging. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 20(3):2596-2625.

Interpretive Summary: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have been used for decades in paper packaging to provide moisture and grease/oil resistance are coming under scrutiny due to concerns about their effect on human health and the environment. ARS scientists in Albany, California as well as industry representatives have reviewed the current PFAS allowable in food packaging and have evaluated possible PFAS alternatives including agriculturally-derived materials. The review will provide researchers and manufacturers a comprehensive review of the PFAS issue, current materials that are being voluntarily phased-out, potential PFAS replacements, and the need for further research to address this important issue.

Technical Abstract: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been used in paper food packaging since the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved product in 1967. PFAS chemicals gained wide use due to their unique ability to provide both moisture and oil/grease resistance in food packaging applications. After decades of use, PFAS chemicals that were once considered innocuous have become a focal point of concern for scientists and consumer groups due to their recalcitrance in the environment, bioaccumulation in humans, and association with various health conditions. Long chain “legacy” PFAS chemicals were voluntarily phased out and replaced with shorter chain PFAS chemicals that have shorter biological half-lives. However, concerns that these PFAS or their end products still pose a risk has led to legislation to ban food packaging containing PFAS chemicals, most notably in the EU. Coincidentally, the FDA recently announced the voluntary phase-out by 2023 of more than half of the PFAS chemicals it still allows in food paper packaging. Finding effective PFAS alternatives that can provide moisture and grease/oil resistance in paper food packaging is imperative. Alternatives to PFAS chemicals include coatings of biopolymers such as polysaccharides and proteins. These hydrophilic biopolymers provide good oil resistance provided there is a continuous coating that blocks any pores or spaces between fibers on the surface. However, they are poor moisture barriers. Various chemical modifications of hydrophilic biopolymers show some benefit. Lamination with biodegradable polyesters provides an effective barrier but costs are currently prohibitive. The use of various sizing agents, waxes, inorganic additives as well as nanomaterials are addressed.