VOICE is calling for an immediate ban on the manufacture or use of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in Food Contact Materials (FCMs) on the Irish market

PFAS are highly persistent chemicals used by manufacturers of many products, including FCMs for their repellency or non stick properties.


1.     They last forever.

According to the European Chemicals Agency: 'All PFAS are highly persistent in the environment. In fact, they are known to persist in the environment longer than any other man-made substance. As a consequence of this persistence, as long as PFAS continue to be released to the environment, humans and other species will be exposed to ever greater concentrations of PFAS.’[1] 

2.     Some PFAS are bio accumulative

They build up in organisms over time, many are toxic.[2] Scientific studies have associated exposure to PFASwith a wide range of health effects — including for the immune, digestive, metabolic, endocrine, and nervous systems as well as for reproduction and development [2a] 

3.     They contaminate our waste streams and affect the integrity of the circular economy 

When packaging materials break down in landfill, PFAS can leach into the environment where they build up in our soil and water due to their high persistence.[3]Many of the moulded plant fibre takeaway food containers tested in European and UK surveys have levels of PFAS well in excess of the EN13432 composting standard limit for total flourine content (an accepted test for PFAS), which means that they are not truly compostable. Those products are marketed as compostable and have become ubiquitous on the Irish market, chosen by businesses for their seemingly superior sustainability credentials, and excellent liquid repellency.

4.     They build up and get into the food chain. 

If PFAS contaminated compost is used to grow crops, then the PFAS may ultimately find their way into our food chain as some PFAS accumulate in plants and vegetables.[4]

5.     PFAS in FCMs are potentially a source of direct human exposure.

In certain circumstances some PFAS can migrate from the packaging into the food we eat[5]and get into our system. This adds to our burden of PFAS exposure from other sources such as drinking water and food. Our repeated exposure to them through FCMs is a cause for serious concern and more study is required in this field.[6]

Meg O'Shea

We are calling for an immediate ban on the manufacture or use of PFAS in Food Contact Materials on the Irish Market.

- We want to join other European Countries who are calling for a total ban on PFAS.

- We want to support the speedy implementation of the objectives in the EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, particularly a total ban on all non-essential uses of PFAS.

Take action: 

1.     Heed the beads! You can check for liquid and oil repellency of paper, cardor moulded plant fibre packaging using a ‘bead test’. In these materials the formation of a bead indicates the likely presence of PFAS. Use a pencil as a dropper to drop a small amount of olive oil (it has to be olive!) Does it soak in, spread out, or form a perky bead? Watch the bead test HERE

2.     If you see beads then write to your food supplier and ask them whether there are any PFAS in their packaging, and if so ask them to find a PFAS-free alternative.

3.     Write to your local TD and the Minister for the Environment, or tag them on twitter, and tell them you are concerned about persistent chemicals in your food packaging. Ask them to represent you by supporting the call for a ban on the manufacture or use of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances in food contact materials on the Irish market

4.     It’s best to reuse, so bring your own reusable container wherever possible to takeaways, restaurants and supermarkets.


VOICE is grateful for technical and financial support received from Chemtrust.org in connection with this project.

https://echa.europa.eu/de/hot-topics/perfluoroalkyl-chemicals-pfasEuropean Chemicals Agency

[2] Trier, X et al., 2017, PFAS in paper and board for food contact – options for risk management of poly-and per flourinated substances, Denmark, p 9.

[2a] Straková J, Schneider, J Cingotti N. et al, 2021, Throwaway packaging, forever chemicals, a European wide survey of PFAS in disposable food packaging and tableware, p17

[3] Stoiberet al., 2020. Disposal of products and materials containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): A cyclical problem, Science Direct, Volume 260, 2020,1277659, ISSN 0045-6535.

[4]Lesmeister et al., 2021, Extending the knowledge about PFAS bio accumulation factors for agricultural plants – A review, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 766, 2021, 142640, ISSN 0048-9697.

[5] RamírezCarnero, A et al., 2021, Presence of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in food contact materials (FCM) and its migration to food, Foods 2021, 10.

[6] Trier, X et al., p79.

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