I’ve received more concerned phone calls and emails than ever before thanks to a recent FDA ban on three compounds that has been found in pizza boxes.I have the world’s largest collection of pizza boxes right here in my Brooklyn apartment, so there’s definitely cause for alarm if the scary headlines have any validity. They aren’t wrong, some packaging material definitely contains harmful chemicals, but the vast majority of pizza boxes in America are not affected by this ruling.
Effective Monday, January 4, 2016, the FDA no longer allows three compounds in the manufacture of paper and paperboard used in food packaging. The compounds belong to a class of chemicals known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs. The compounds help reduce static and limit grease absorption by food packaging but they may seep into food and cause massive damage.
The issue isn’t with pizza boxes alone, but with all food packaging (sandwich wrappers, microwave popcorn bags) that uses PFASs. Most American paper manufactures voluntarily stopped using the potentially dangerous compounds years ago, but risk remains in paper products imported from other countries. The American pizza box industry points the finger at their main competitors in China and India, but that doesn’t mean all imported boxes are dangerous. Most of the imports are circulating through west coast pizzerias.
It’s pretty safe to say you’re out of harm’s way if you’re using domestic pizza boxes. My contacts at the leading US pizza box company don’t use any of the banned chemicals and they produce boxes for 75 of the top 100 chains (Papa John’s, Little Caesar’s, Pizza Hut). In those cases, you’re probably in more danger from the stuff inside the box than by the box itself.