The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has imposed a ban effective Jan. 4 on the use of certain chemicals used in pizza boxes and other similar products because they pose a potential health risk. The move was made in response to a petition filed by various bodies, including the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Environmental Health and the Center for Food Safety, Food Safety News reported.

The petition mentioned the reproductive and developmental health risks cited in a 2010 FDA review. Objections to the new rule can be filed until Feb. 3.

Food additive regulations will "no longer provide for the use of three specific perfluoroalkyl ethyl containing food-contact substances (FCSs) as oil and water repellants for paper and paperboard for use in contact with aqueous and fatty foods," the new FDA rule states. Apparently, new evidence points to the toxicity of such substances proving that "there is no longer a reasonable certainty of no harm from the food-contact use of these FCSs."

The three types of perfluoroalkyl ethyl, as specified in the petition, are: "diethanolamine salts of mono- and bis (1 H, 1 H, 2 H, 2 Hperfluoroalkyl) phosphates where the alkyl group is even-numbered in the range C8-C18 and the salts have a fluorine content of 52.4 percent to 54.4 percent as determined on a solids basis; pentanoic acid, 4,4-bis [(gamma-omega-perfluoro-C8-20-alkyl)thio] derivatives, compounds with diethanolamine (CAS Reg. No. 71608-61-2); and perfluoroalkyl substituted phosphate ester acids, ammonium salts formed by the reaction of 2,2-bis[([gamma], [omega]-perfluoro C4-20 alkylthio) methyl]-1,3-propanediol, polyphosphoric acid and ammonium hydroxide."

These substances are used to keep pizza grease from permeating into the pizza box and making it soggy. The FDA said new studies have shown that substances similar in structure to these compounds have been proven to be toxic.

"The FDA's ban is an important first step - but just a first step - toward improving the safety of our food supply. Now it should act on our petition to ban the seven other chemicals we believe - and government agencies such as the toxicology program at the National Institutes of Health have found - cause cancer," NRDC director Erik Olson told Food Safety News.