In a move that could signal a change in direction, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reopening the comment period for scientific data and information on nine approved phthalates, harmful chemicals commonly used in food packaging.
Phthalates are industrial chemicals used to make plastics more durable in a variety of consumer goods for more than 50 years. The chemicals are also used in food packaging and food production materials.
Exposure to phthalates has been linked to adverse effects on the endocrine system, reproductive system and multiple organs, which have long-term impacts on pregnancy, child growth and development.
A coalition of environmental and consumer advocacy groups petitioned the FDA to revoke the approval of phthalates in food packaging and production in April 2016, but the agency did not respond. The groups sued the FDA in December to force the agency to act.
In May, the FDA denied the petition, citing a lack of evidence to place all the phthalates into a single class of chemicals and because the groups’ petition did not provide enough scientific data or information to justify the revocation.
The FDA instead revoked the food contact use authorization for 23 phthalates and two other substances that were no longer used by the industry and allowed nine phthalates to continue being used in food contact applications in a limited capacity.
The agency put out a request for scientific data and information on the remaining phthalates in May, which expired July 19. The agency will soon reopen the comment period on the request for information, allowing more time for the public to submit data and information on the chemicals.