Making the Change to Safe Alternatives for a Safer Planet: The PFAS Challenge of the Food Processing & Handling Industry

Rachel Yoon
Marketing Communications Manager Energy & Industrial

Reducing our reliance on hazardous ‘forever chemicals’


Known for their water-resistant and non-stick properties, PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products. Found in cosmetics, cookware, clothing, furniture, firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil – they are part of our everyday lives.
PFAS

But PFAS can make their way into the surrounding soil, water, and air. And because they don’t break down naturally, they remain persistent in the environment – a persistence that has culminated in them being found in people, animals and a variety of food products all over the world1.

A recent study estimates that 4.4 million tonnes of PFAS will end up in the environment over the next 30 years unless action is taken2. Worryingly, recent scientific studies have shown that high levels of PFAS can be linked to liver damage, kidney cancer, birth defects and other adverse health effects in both humans and animals3.


Time for change is now

The UK and European Union have already taken steps to ban PFAS, as have some local governments in the U.S4. These moves align with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) PFAS restriction proposal and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals target, which aims to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals, air and water – as well as soil pollution and contamination – by 20305.

These new laws and regulations – coupled with the increased demand placed on food processing, handling, and supply chains due to the world’s growing population and evolving sustainable, socially responsible lifestyles – mean that the need for a smarter, safer alternative to quickly replace PFAS is more urgent than ever before.


ECHA and SDG

A spotlight on cookware and the food handling & processing industry

Major firms such as McDonald’s and Burger King, as well as leading UK supermarkets including Asda and Co-op, have pledged to phase out the use of chemicals in food packaging6. But of even greater concern is cookware – as these items are often used in our daily lives.

The majority of frying pans and other cookware items, for example, that come into contact with heat and oil have PTFE-based coatings on their metal surfaces. PTFE-based coatings have been widely used since the 1960s owing to their excellent non-stick performance, heat and chemical resistance, easy coating, affordability and durability. Any PFAS-free alternative must also meet these requirements in order to be a viable option. Crucially, they must also comply with modern food contact regulations. Frying pans are usually made from steel, ceramics, copper or aluminium. The majority are aluminium with a non-stick coating owing to the good balance of light weight, good heat conductivity, ease of maintenance and affordability.

Replacing a material that is used so widely is a challenge for many cookware manufacturers, and compliance with necessary regulations - material change is essential.

 

pan
pan

Alternative to PFAS coated food material

VICTREX™ PEEK polymer is known to be one of the highest performing polymers in the world. What makes this material unique is its multi-faceted features. It is resistant to heat, chemicals and friction. It has mechanical strength, high-purity, and is recyclable and highly durable. For more specific information concerning these properties please contact Victrex. It is in fact used in rice cookers to deliver improved abrasion and corrosion protection.

Victrex have developed the VICTREX FG™ (food grade polymer) series; a range of high-performance PEEK-based polymers compliant with major food and water contact regulations and standards – including FDA, EU10/2011, WRAS and KTW. Please see compliance grid below.

PFAS have intentionally not been added, used or generated as by-products in the manufacturing process of VICTREX FG polymers. The latest addition to this series is VICTREX FG™ 700 – a game-changing powder coating that is also PFAS-free.

 

Victrex FG Polymers

The introduction of this coating alternative will benefit not only cookware, but the broader food processing and handling industry too. It will impact everything from the processing of ingredients to the production and packaging of large volumes of food and beverages. Commercial and domestic appliances, such as coffee machines, could also be affected as new applications and solutions are uncovered. This can also be used as part of a high-performance surface coating, blended with additives to optimise performance and meet end user requirements.
Quote of Steve Dougherty


Let’s make change

At Victrex we use our 40+ years’ experience of working with pioneering manufacturers, to identify and calculate the potential benefits and value of replacing existing materials and parts with polymer alternatives – helping OEMs from various industries identify the technologies and solutions that they need to adopt in order to realise their vision.

Working together, we have the vision, the tools and the products to support moves away from hazardous substances like PFAS and towards less harmful alternatives, helping to make applications and the industry safer and more sustainable.

Let’s make change.

References

  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (April 10, 2023) PFOA, PFOS and Other PFAS - PFAS Explained. https://www.epa.gov/pfas/pfas-explained
  2. ECHA (February 7, 2023) ECHA publishes PFAS restriction proposal. https://echa.europa.eu/-/echa-publishes-pfas-restriction-proposal
  3. ATSDR (November 1, 2022) What are the health effects of PFAS? https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects/index.html
  4. Bloomberg Law (January 4, 2023) PFAS Bans, Restrictions Go Into Effect in States in 2023. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/environment-and-energy/pfas-bans-restrictions-go-into-effect-in-states-as-year-begins
  5. United Nations - Department of Economic and Social Affairs - Sustainable Development (July 7, 2022) Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal3
  6. BBC News (December 20, 2022) 3M manufacturing giant to stop making 'forever chemicals'. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-64042796

About the author

Rachel Hyowon Yoon has over 15 years of experience in leading global marketing and communications in various industries from consumer and IT to polymer. Since joining Victrex in 2016, she managed marketing communications for electronics, manufacturing and industrial businesses, and now is the Marketing Communications Manager for Victrex’s energy and industrial business unit.

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[Disclaimer] This information is provided “as is”.  It is not intended to amount to advice.  Use of the product is at the customer’s/user’s risk.  It is the customer’s/user’s responsibility to thoroughly test the product in each specific application to determine its performance, efficacy and safety for each end-use product, device or other application and compliance with applicable laws, regulations and standards.  Mention of a product is no guarantee of availability.  Victrex reserves the right to modify products, data sheets, specifications and packaging.  Victrex makes no warranties, express or implied (including, without limitation, any warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or of intellectual property non-infringement) and will not be liable for any loss or damage of any nature (however arising) in connection with customer’s/user’s use or reliance on this information, except for any liability which cannot be excluded or limited by law.  This document may be modified or retracted at any time without notice to the customer/user.  

Victrex Manufacturing Limited (or another member of the Victrex group) is the owner or the licensee of all intellectual property rights in and to this document including the following trade marks, VICTREX, INVIBIO, JUVORA, APTIV, 450G, PEEK-OPTIMA, SHAPING FUTURE PERFORMANCE, LMPAEK, TRIANGLE (Device).  All rights are protected by intellectual property rights including copyright under relevant national and international intellectual property laws and treaties.  All rights reserved.  Copyright © Victrex Manufacturing Limited 2023

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