Amazon announces ban on toxic chemicals and plastics in food packaging

Amazon announced that it will ban certain toxic chemicals and plastics in the food packaging materials used for its Amazon Kitchen brand. Toxic chemicals PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), phthalates, BPA (bisphenol A) and other bisphenols, and the plastics polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), and expanded polystyrene (EPS) are now restricted in certain private-label food contact materials. Amazon’s new commitment is the latest update to the chemicals policy it first launched in 2018, which also restricts toxic chemicals in private-label baby, household cleaning, personal care, and beauty products as well as brand-name paint-removal products.
“Amazon’s new policy commitment signals a growing retail sustainability trend,” explains Mind the Store Campaign Director Mike Schade in response to today’s announcement. “In the past year alone, we’ve witnessed more than a half-dozen food retailers from across the country committing to safer alternatives when it comes to food packaging materials. It is clearly possible to do, and yet some major chains like McDonald’s, Kroger, and Costco have not stood up for the health of their customers or the environment.”
“No company should be using chemicals that can impair a person’s immune system, especially as we are battling a worldwide pandemic,” says Executive Director of Toxic-Free Future Laurie Valeriano in response to Amazon’s new RSL released today. “Amazon is wise to be getting in front of regulatory bans that are soon coming their way, like in their home state of Washington. As we continue to fight for critical government policies to protect us against toxic chemicals in food packaging, it’s welcome news to see how companies, like Amazon, are stepping up to do what’s right.”
“Market leaders like Amazon know that children thrive on healthy food that’s free from toxic chemicals that escape from packaging,” says Mike Belliveau, Executive Director of Defend Our Health. “Further reducing the use of chemicals like phthalates and PFAS that may harm brain development could help halt the epidemic of learning and developmental disabilities our children already suffer.”
Amazon’s new restricted substance list (RSL) applies to its Amazon Kitchen brand products sold in Amazon Go, Amazon Go Grocery, Amazon Fresh, and Fresh grocery delivery. It does not apply to other private-label or Amazon brand-name food contact materials. Today’s announcement comes five months after a class-action lawsuit was filed, alleging PFAS was present in Amazon private-label disposable plates, which are not included in this new restriction.
Amazon’s newly released list of restricted chemicals also includes perchlorate, benzophenone, lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and the solvents NMP (N-Methylpyrrolidone), 2-Ethoxyethanol, 2-Methoxyethanol, and toluene. In addition to PVC, PS, and EPS, the company also announced it is prohibiting the following non-recyclable plastics in its food contact packaging: polycarbonates (PC), polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC), rigid polylactic acid (PLA), and polyhyrdoxyalkanoates (PHAs).
Some state and local governments are moving to phase out classes of toxic chemicals in food packaging, such as PFAS and phthalates, in favor of safer alternatives. Over the past two years, Washington and Maine have enacted phase-outs of PFAS in food packaging that go into effect January 1, 2022 or as soon as safer alternatives are available. Maine’s new law also prohibits the use of phthalates in food packaging and food handling gloves effective January 1, 2022. And, most recently, New York’s Governor signed a bill banning the use of PFAS in food packaging which takes effect at the end of 2022. Federal legislation to ban PFAS in food packaging, the Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act, has been introduced by U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell.
As part of Mind the Store’s research for its annual retailer report, it was found that top food retailers are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to reduce and eliminate harmful chemicals. Over the past two years, Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons, Cava, Chipotle, Freshii, Kroger, Panera Bread, Sweetgreen, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods Market announced steps to reduce or eliminate certain toxic chemicals in food packaging at over 17,000 stores. A recent report published by the Mind the Store campaign and Toxic-Free Future found major fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s still likely serve up toxic PFAS with some of their most popular takeout foods.
Amazon previously received a grade of C+ in the 2019 “Who’s Minding the Store?” Retailer Report Card.