Amazon Bans Certain Chemicals and Plastics in Food Packaging

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Amazon Bans Certain Chemicals and Plastics in Food Packaging

By Bridget Goldschmidt - 12/08/2020
Amazon Bans Toxic Chemicals and Plastics in Food Packaging Mind the Store Amazon Kitchen Amazon Fresh
The restricted substance list applies to Amazon Kitchen brand products in Amazon Go, Amazon Go Grocery, Amazon Fresh stores and via Fresh grocery delivery, but not to other private label or Amazon brand food contact materials.

Amazon has revealed that it will ban certain chemicals and plastics in food packaging used for its Amazon Kitchen brand. PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), phthalates, BPA (bisphenol A) and other bisphenols, and the plastics polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, polystyrene (PS), and expanded polystyrene (EPS) plastic are on the list of restricted substances in food contact packaging.

The move represents Amazon’s latest update to the chemicals policy it rolled out in 2018, which also restricts certain chemicals in private label baby, household cleaning, personal care and beauty products, along with brand-name paint-removal products.

“We are committed to developing high-quality and affordable private-brand products that customers love,” the Seattle-based company said on its website. “Part of our commitment to quality is avoiding chemicals of concern in our products that can affect human health and/or the environment.” 

“Amazon’s new policy commitment signals a growing retail sustainability trend,” noted Mike Schade, director of the national Mind the Store campaign, in response to Amazon’s action. “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.” 

Amazon’s new restricted substance list (RSL) applies to its Amazon Kitchen brand products sold in Amazon Go, Amazon Go Grocery, Amazon Fresh stores and via Fresh grocery delivery, but not to other private label or Amazon brand food contact materials. This comes five months after a class action was filed alleging the presence of PFAS  in Amazon private label disposable plates, a product not included in the new restrictions.

The list 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, Amazon said it's prohibiting the following nonrecyclable 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 chemicals in food packaging, including PFAS and phthalates. In the past two years, Washington and Maine have passed phase-outs of PFAS in food packaging that go into effect Jan. 1, 2022, or as soon as safer alternatives are available. Maine’s law additionally prohibits the use of phthalates in food packaging and food-handling gloves as of Jan. 1, 2022. Most recently, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill banning the use of PFAS in food packaging, which takes effect at the end of 2022. On the federal front, meanwhile, legislation to ban PFAS in food packaging, the Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act, has been introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan. 

Mind the Store’s research found major food retailers are increasingly implementing policies to reduce and eliminate chemicals of concern from their packaging. Over the past two years alone, Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons, Kroger, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market, among others, have taken steps to reduce or eliminate certain chemicals in food packaging.

Amazon previously earned a C+ grade in the 2019 “Who’s Minding the Store?” Retailer Report Card. The Washington, D.C.-based Mind the Store campaign’s fifth annual report will come out in the first quarter of 2021.

Under the Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market banner, Seattle-based Amazon is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2020 PG 100 list of the top grocers in the United States.