PFAS-free Oxygen Absorbers Meet New Packaging RegulationsPFAS-free Oxygen Absorbers Meet New Packaging Regulations
Proprietary technology for oxygen absorbers eliminates PFAS, enabling food packagers to obey bans on “forever chemicals” while still protecting product quality.
November 14, 2023
With per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) under increased scrutiny, food companies are on the hunt for PFAS-free packaging. In the oxygen absorber category, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical (MGC) has developed a product that leverages the company’s PFAS-free AGELESS technology. Its new 100% PFAS-free oxygen absorber is set to launch in 2024.
Many food packagers rely on in-pack oxygen absorbing sachets to keep their products fresh with few to no preservatives. The sachets deoxidize sealed packages, protecting flavor, color, aroma, and nutrients. MGC pioneered the technology, developing the original AGELESS oxygen absorber more than 40 years ago.
PFAS chemicals resist oil, grease, and water and are used in products such as fabrics, carpeting, fire-fighting foams, and cleaning products. Also known as “forever chemicals,” the substances are incorporated into many packaging materials — including oxygen absorbers — as a grease-proofing agent. Forever chemicals were first used in the 1940s.
In recent years, widespread concerns about the effects of PFAS on human and animal health, as well as their inability to break down in the environment, have spurred numerous jurisdictions worldwide to ban PFAS in products and packaging.
Responding to the rising tide of anti-PFAS regulations, MGC initiated development of a PFAS-free oxygen absorber that would offer food packagers a sustainable, regulation-compliant option. The new PFAS-free product, featuring cleaner chemistry, offers the same performance and food-preservation benefits as the company’s existing oxygen absorbers.
MGC broke its own product-development time record with the PFAS-free product. “Development had begun in response to European Union PFAS regulations and was on target to be completed in time for the full EU changeover, around 2025,” says Sean J. Hael, North American general manager, sales and marketing, Oxygen Absorbers Division, MGC.
“In the United States, individual states jumped out ahead of federal and EU regulations, which cut the development time by about two years,” he adds.
Many benefits of PFAS-free oxygen absorbers for food packagers.
The new PFAS-free product is oil-resistant and can create a 99.9% oxygen-free package within 24 hours to 72 hours, depending on pack type and size. Benefits include shelf-life extension, optimal food quality and safety, reduced food waste, and no need for chemical preservatives.
Packaging applications for the new product include baked goods, processed meats, meat snacks, dried fruits, coffee, teas, snack foods, pet treats, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceuticals.
“We have conducted extensive testing on products containing low- and high-oil content to ensure the new oil-resistant, PFAS-free oxygen absorber technology has the same superior quality and performance that our AGELESS products have always offered,” Hael says.
“Many of our customers have tested both our non-oil- and oil-resistant PFAS-free oxygen absorbers already and are pleased with the results,” he adds. Significantly, “in a side-by-side comparison study conducted by a third-party lab, researchers found that other top oxygen absorbers currently in the market still contain traces of PFAS.”
MGC plans to offer a selection of PFAS-free oxygen absorbers for various packaging applications, to roll out in phases starting in January 2024. Ultimately, the company will discontinue its PFAS-containing oxygen absorbers.
Regarding pricing for PFAS-free products, which represent a “brand new technology, there will likely be a slight increase in cost as this is implemented by manufacturers for the first time,” Hael says.
“However, during extensive testing and studies with our oxygen absorbers, our team discovered that some products that are not so high in fatty oils will not require oil resistance, so we’ll also offer a non-oil-resistant oxygen absorber, which will not see a cost increase,” he says.
Kate Bertrand Connolly has been covering innovations, trends, and technologies in packaging, branding, and business since 1981.
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