FDA Rejects Phthalate Petition

On May 19, 2022, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has denied two petitions to ban phthalates in food packaging.  In conjunction with denying the petitions, the FDA accepted a petition requesting that the Agency stops authorizing 23 phthalates for use in food containers as they are no longer used by industry.

In addition to being in food containers, phthalates are used as additives in cosmetics, detergents, and shower curtains.  Industry often uses them to soften plastics.  Although allowed in many products, the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act bans a concentration of more than 0.1 percent of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP); dibutyl phthalate (DBP); or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) in all children’s toy and childcare articles.  Being exposed to concentrated amounts of phthalates can cause reproductive and developmental issues.

Multiple groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund and Earthjustice, have petitioned the FDA in the last decade to block the authorization of phthalates in food packaging, but the petitions have always failed, with the FDA citing a lack of information to justify blocking authorization of phthalates.

FDA’s acceptance of the petition to stop authorizing certain phthalates was due to the industry no longer using those substances. As the industry has abandoned use of those phthalates, the FDA found it appropriate to stop their authorization.  Currently, there are eight phthalates that the FDA still authorizes.  Shortly after the FDA’s announcement, they issued a request for information regarding current uses, levels, dietary exposure, and safety data for those phthalates.