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Maine officials urged to enforce ban on chemicals in food packaging

The law, in effect since Jan. 1, prohibits phthalates in food and beverage packaging.

MAINE, Maine — Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey is being urged to enforce a ban on toxic chemicals known as phthalates in food packaging. Federal studies have linked prenatal exposure to phthalates to adverse health effects, especially in young children.

The ban, passed in 2019, was supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1. 

That prohibition has been delayed by state regulators because of economic challenges in the marketplace, but advocates have said the ban is needed now, after recent tests show phthalates in products sold in Maine grocery stores, from soda to beer.

"It's time for the state to step up and take action to enforce the law that was passed in 2019 and force these companies to get these chemicals out of their packaging," Patrick MacRoy, deputy director of environmental advocacy group Defend Our Health, said. The nonprofit organization helped write a draft of the law. 

The chemicals are used in processing equipment and can leech into food products. They are also in the lining of jar lids and metal bottle caps.

Federal studies show the chemicals can disrupt hormone production, with pregnant women and developing infants at higher risk for health concerns. 

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection explained its position on delaying enforcement in a statement from DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim on its website.  

"We are asking Maine's Attorney General Frey to actually step forward and make sure that these large multibillion-dollar companies follow Maine's law," MacRoy said.

The nonprofit sent this letter to Frey asking that enforcement actions be taken against two multinational corporations: Goya Foods Incorporated and Constellation Brands, Inc. 

The letter also shows the results of tests by two different labs that found phthalates in more than 10 different Goya products, including sofrito sauce, soda, and Corona Extra beer. 

"All of them had phthalates in their cap liners. We tested a number of different products," MacRoy said.

DEP officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment. 

A spokesperson from the Maine attorney general's office told NEWS CENTER, Maine, that they are "working closely with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection as it follows up on this new information."

Environmental advocates, meanwhile, have said more U.S. food and beverage manufacturers have started using phthalate-free caps over the past two years.

Goya Foods Inc. did not respond to NEWS CENTER Maine's requests for a statement. 

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