Maine Toxics in Food Packaging Program

In June 2019, Public Law c. 277 An Act To Protect the Environment and Public Health by Further Reducing Toxic Chemicals in Packaging [LD 1433, 128th Legislature] was signed into law adding Chapter 26-B to the already established Reduction of Toxics in Packaging law (32 MRSA §§1731-1747). This revised law now includes a chemical listing process for the purposes of assessing the chemicals currently used in food packaging and replacing those chemicals with safer alternatives when they are available.

In order to reduce the toxicity of packaging material, existing law prohibits the use of certain chemicals in packaging sold in the State, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium. In addition to the prohibition on those chemicals, new sections of this law have been added that effect which chemicals can be used in food packaging.

For more information, contact Kerri Malinowski Farris at 207-215-1894

Phthalates | PFAS in Food Packaging | Chemicals of High Concern


Starting January 1, 2022, food packaging sold in Maine cannot contain intentionally introduced amounts of phthalates. Food packaging includes packaging that contains a food or beverage product, and plastic disposable gloves. Manufacturers with less than $1 billion of total annual national sales of food and beverage products are exempt from this requirement.

Due to food supply shortages in late 2021, the Commissioner released a Statement on Enforcement Discretion, allowing food sold in noncompliant packaging to temporarily continue to be sold in Maine. Beginning July 1, 2022, any food sold in noncompliant packaging must no longer be offered for sale in Maine. All noncompliant products must be removed from store shelves.

The Department will develop a proposed rule to provide additional clarification and technical details to support effective implementation. The statutory prohibition remains in effect without a rule, and any final rule will not alter the statutory prohibition on intentionally introduced phthalates in food packaging. The Department will issue a request to solicit stakeholders interested in becoming part of the rulemaking process. To receive this notification request and become a part of this rulemaking, please email Kerri Malinowski.

Certificate of Compliance

An acceptable certificate of compliance is a statement signed by a senior manager with authority to speak on behalf of the organization which states that the food packaging being sold in Maine after January 1, 2022, does not contain any intentionally introduced amounts of phthalates. This statement must be made available to Maine DEP upon request.


PFAS in Food Packaging

Maine law 32 MRS §1733(3-B) directs the Department to initiate major substantive rulemaking to prohibit the use of PFAS in food packaging after making the determination that safer alternatives to the use of PFAS in specific applications of food packaging is available.  To do this, the Department must conclude that safer alternatives to PFAS are readily available in sufficient quantity, at a comparable cost to the packaging it would replace, and that the safer alternative performs as well or better than PFAS in the specific application used in current food packaging. 

[Within this statutory application, safer alternative means an alternative that, when compared to the chemical that it replaces, would reduce the potential for harm to human health or the environment or that has not been shown to pose the same or greater potential for harm to human health or the environment (32 MRSA §1732 (5-C)).]

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Washington DOE) investigated available safer alternatives for an identical application of food packaging as described in Maine law 32 MRSA §1733(3-B).  Because of the extensive resources and expertise available to Washington DOE, and the similarities in the legal charge for both agencies, the Department determined that the safer alternative assessment report developed by Washington DOE is reliable as a key element in meeting Maine’s legal mandate to determine that safer alternatives to PFAS for specific food package applications are readily available in sufficient quantity, at comparable cost, and that the alternative performs as well or better than the currently used food packaging containing PFAS, relative to the specific application reviewed. 

The Washington State Alternative Assessment Report, Safer Alternatives to PFAS in Food Packaging (February 2021), found that four of the ten food packaging applications reviewed have alternatives to PFAS that meet Maine’s statutory definition of safer alternatives for specific food packaging applications.  However, due to differences in Maine and Washington’s regional markets, the Department requires additional information specific to products sold in Maine in order to assess the availability and comparable cost in Maine of alternative food packaging identified in the Washington report before moving forward with a conclusive determination for this sales prohibition.


Chemicals of High Concern List

New sections of law also require the Department to publish a list of no more than 10 food contact Chemicals Of High Concern which will help the Department gather information on the current use of those chemicals in food packaging (32 MRSA, Chapter 26-B). To be listed as a food contact chemical of high concern in this context the chemicals must meet the following criteria:

  • present on Maine’s Chemicals of Concern list published in accordance with Title 38, section 1693; or
  • has been identified by an authoritative governmental entity as:
    • a carcinogen, reproductive or developmental toxicant or an endocrine disruptor;
    • persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic; or
    • very persistent and very bioaccumulative.

The Department must also determine that there is strong credible scientific evidence that the chemical is a reproductive or developmental toxicant, endocrine disruptor or human carcinogen;
that there is strong credible scientific evidence that the chemical meets one or more of the following exposure based criteria:

  • found through biomonitoring studies to be present in human blood, human breast milk, human urine, or other human bodily tissues or fluids;
  • found through sampling and analysis to be present in a food or beverage product; or
  • has been added to or is present in a food package.

After review of publicly available information, the Department has generated a list of 10 Food Contact Chemicals Of High Concern which includes details about how each meets the statutory criteria for listing.  This document has proceeded through the public comment process and is posted here in its final form, accompanied by the Department’s Response to Comments which were submitted earlier this year.

Comments received on Draft Food Contact Chemicals of High Concern Criteria Documentation