Toxic food packaging at the neighborhood Albertsons?

A new laboratory investigation conducted by partner group Mind the Store has identified the likely presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in some store-brand products and food service ware. Items were obtained at two Albertsons locations here in Boise by Conservation Voters for Idaho, and at a California Safeway, an Albertsons subsidiary, by Clean Water Action California. The tested products include dental floss, bakery cake plates, and the packaging for Albertsons’ brand microwave popcorn. Eight out of the ten tested samples from Albertsons and Safeway stores contained elevated levels of fluorine, indicating they were likely treated with PFAS.  

You may remember these nightmarish chemicals from our screening of the film, The Devil We Know. Companies use PFAS chemicals in food packaging because they provide water and grease resistance. But these harmful chemicals leach out of the packaging and into our food, our bodies, in our compost, and the environment. PFAS have also been found in drinking water all around the U.S. Some PFAS remain in the human body for years and exposure has been linked to cancer, liver damage, and immune suppression.

The investigation identified the following items, purchased at Albertsons and Safeway grocery stores, which were chosen because they were likely treated with PFAS based on other studies:

  • The bags of store brand O Organics popcorn (Butter and Simply Salted flavors) and Signature Select popcorn (Extra Butter and Kettle Corn flavors);
  • Store brand Signature Care Mint Waxed Comfort Floss;
  • Decorative plates used under store bakery cakes; and
  • A hot bar clamshell container.

The only item that did not test positive for likely PFAS treatment was butcher paper.

This testing expands on sampling CVI helped conduct in 2018 to gauge the extent of PFAS use in paper food packaging sold at and used by five major U.S. grocery chains. The Take Out Toxics study focused on deli packaging such as takeout containers; this additional sampling included packaging, such as for microwave popcorn, some of which have been found to be likely PFAS-treated in other studies.

In response to the Take Out Toxics report, both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s pledged action on PFAS. In contrast, Albertsons has yet to take action or make a public commitment on toxic PFAS. We know that they can. After hearing from concerned customers like you, Albertsons has made progress in other areas, such as significantly reducing the use of BPA in its private brand food packaging. Still, they’ve only earned a C- on the last two retailer report cards, ranking large companies on toxic chemicals.

The writing is on the wall for PFAS; cities and states across the country are already taking action and banning PFAS in food contact materials. Albertsons should proactively take the lead and protect their customers from a known toxic chemical. Just as the company worked to drive BPA out of its canned foods, Albertsons should ensure that food contact materials don’t contain highly persistent and toxic PFAS chemicals and ensure substitutes are safe.

As the second-largest dedicated grocery chain in America, with more than 2,200 stores and $60.5 billion in annual sales, Albertsons has the market power and moral responsibility to ensure the food and products it sells don’t contain toxic chemicals like PFAS.

Sign our petition and help us share these new findings on social media. It’s time for Albertsons to #MindTheStore and get PFAS out of its private label and brand name food packaging!