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Should the food industry be putting a greater focus on the PFAS issue?

23 May 2024

A critical issue within the food industry was overlooked at this year's Anuga FoodTec exhibition, according to ROCOL.

Despite its far-reaching implications, the pervasive problem relating to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination did not receive the attention it deserves at one of the industry's biggest annual events, says the company. 

The scale of the PFAS issue within the food industry spans various stages of production and distribution. These synthetic chemicals are extensively used in industrial processes, including the production of non-stick cookware, food packaging and lubricants. When these chemicals find their way into the environment, they can infiltrate the food supply and pose environmental risks.

A universal PFAS restriction proposal is currently being debated in the European Union with the European Commission expected to respond to the proposals in 2025. Days before the Anuga exhibition, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) outlined that it will be discussing PFAS in food contact materials and packaging in September this year. Despite this, this industry-wide, global issue was hardly discussed by the exhibitors.

“Beyond the concerns raised by environmental activists and regulatory bodies, our customers are increasingly demanding action from companies across the supply chain. Heightened awareness of the health risks associated with PFAS exposure has led customers to seek out products free from these harmful chemicals. This shift in customer behaviour has exerted pressure on food manufacturers, suppliers and supporting industries to adopt proactive measures in addressing PFAS contamination,” said a ROCOL spokesperson.

Addressing the PFAS problem will require a multifaceted approach, encompassing research and development of PFAS-free alternatives, stringent regulatory measures, and industry-wide initiatives to promote best practices. Collaboration between stakeholders across the food supply chain is therefore essential to effectively tackle this issue.

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