In today's ever-evolving landscape of consumer demands and regulatory standards, ensuring the safety and compliance of packaging raw materials across industries and for a wide range of products has become paramount.
Of particular concern are per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of potentially hazardous chemicals widely used in various industrial applications and packaging.
Having effective specification data management throughout supply chains is essential for companies looking to trace levels of PFAS and guarantee the integrity of consumer products.
From identifying potential sources of contamination to implementing rigorous quality control measures, comprehensive specification data management plays a crucial role in safeguarding public health, meeting regulatory requirements, and maintaining consumer trust.
What are PFAS or “Forever Chemicals”?
PFAS also known as Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl substances have been around since the mid-20th century although they didn’t get much attention until recent years - and unfortunately, the reasons for this rise in attention are quite alarming.
You may have heard Per - and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances referred to as PFAS or likely as “Forever Chemicals”.
Because of their high resistance to degradation, once released into the environment PFAS can last nearly forever, contaminating soil, water, and living bodies organisms for years if not decades.
PFAS appealing characteristics such as water, heat, oil, and grease resistance have allowed “Forever Chemicals” to make their mark in almost every element of human life.
Although their presence has some serious consequences. With their limited breakdown, over time PFAS accumulate and create chemical buildup, eventually moving through food chains and posing risks for entire ecosystems.
For humans, PFAS were linked to a wide range of adverse health effects from liver and immune system damage to developmental issues and increased risk of certain cancers.
PFAS in Packaging and Products
Across industries, PFAS have been used in various forms of packaging - with a huge presence in food packaging specifically - when you go into your favorite grocery store avoiding PFAS from the products you buy is near impossible.
From pizza boxes and takeout containers to fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags, PFAS in packaging is highly popular to help companies ensure that food products don’t leak or have contact with food products.
And more many companies PFAS go beyond just packaging but have made their way into every element of the supply chain.
To learn more about the effects of PFAS on human and environmental health and their role in packaging and formulas check out our latest blog.
The Rise in Regulations Against PFAS
As research and data support the consequences of PFAS, regulations, and legislation related to their presence have increased exponentially.
Across nations and industries, companies are being asked to report and track levels of PFAS in their products and packaging and more importantly show how they are working to eliminate these chemicals.
Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have issued monitorization of these chemicals and are furthering the process of eventually phasing PFAS out altogether.
And it is inevitable that regulatory compliance and regulations are going to come down even harder with further research and discovery of the risks of PFAS.
This means that businesses are going to have to be able to track and regulate levels of PFAS in their products and packaging, making access to up-to-date specifications and data that much more valuable.
And companies that do not have access to this data will face the consequences of non-compliance and the inability to track progress over time.
Why Companies Should Use a Spec-First Approach to Address PFAS
Restrictions and standards are popping up all around the globe from various regulatory bodies, forcing companies to make quick changes to limit the presence of PFAS.
In order to stay up to day with these constant changes businesses must be in touch with their specification data.
The absence of this data will make identifying ingredients, materials, and product specifications related to PFAS much more difficult.
Adapting to Changes and Meeting Regulations Head-on
Neogen - a global company striving to protect the world's food supply by providing a comprehensive range of solutions for industries such as food processing, animal health, and agriculture - experienced the complex effects of new PFAS regulations firsthand.
On February 7th, 2023 the Europea Chemicals Agency (ECHA) announced one of the most expansive and contentious PFAS legislation to date.
Unlike other global statements made around PFAS that amain to reduce PFAS over time, the ECHA’s proposal creates almost an entire ban of Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl substances across all industries.
With a wide range of customer portfolios, this had a huge impact on Neogen, and the company is still working to locate the products and companies the legislation will affect.
Data points and specifications are scattered and siloed teams are struggling to determine where PFAS are embedded into products and packaging and at what levels.
Locating PFAS and Ingredients with Specright
For companies that these regulations affect having proper tools for Specification Data Management will make locating and eliminating these PFAS much more seamless.
With Specright, teams can use the “where used” feature to select ingredients and view their relation to finished products - in this case the ingredient being PFAS.
Instead of spending countless hours trying to locate the specifications with this function, companies like Neogen would be able to efficiently align their finished goods specifications with regulations by region.
The Power of a Data to Track Down PFAS
And beyond just locating this data around PFAS many companies are finding that these specifications cease to exist.
For Hostess, an American-based bakery company, specifications were like a foreign language. In the absence of an adequate tool for Specification Management, the company spent hundreds of thousands in labor, wasted time, and delayed deliveries, all to hunt down PFAS within their packaging raw materials.
With the goal of eliminating PFAS from products and packaging, Hostess had to first locate all their packaging materials that contained PFAS, and then send multiple supplier corrective action requests (SCARs) to their packaging material suppliers, then wait even longer for responses.
Hostess was quick to recognize the inefficiency and pain that this process was causing their team members. And as a result, their quality and packaging team began investigating Specright to digitize their specifications, specifically for packaging.
When it comes to managing PFAS tracking and updating specifications is of utmost importance - especially with the constant changes and additions that come along with PFAS legislation.
Companies should begin considering where on their supply chain PFAS can be limited and to do so effective data is a must.
Failure to comply with regulations can lead to severe consequences including non-compliance penalties and burdened company reputations.
With a spec-first approach, companies are enabled to effectively locate and eliminate PFAS in order to meet sustainability goals and legislative requirements.
By using adequate specification management tools like Specright aligning specifications with regulations will be done at the click of a button, empowering cost savings and eliminating time wasted.
To learn more about how Specright can enable you and your team to eliminate PFAS and meet regulatory standards request a demo here.