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MEPs on Environment committee call for EU regulation of chemicals in paper & board packaging

MEPs on the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee have this morning voted to strengthen their draft report on the regulation of Food Contact Materials. They are calling for the European Commission to create new regulations to ensure that people’s health is protected from chemicals in paper and board packaging, and for particularly problematic chemicals to be phased out of food contact applications. The full European Parliament will vote on the report in the autumn.

Currently the EU’s laws regulating chemicals in food contact materials such as packaging have major gaps, with the chemicals in plastic packaging regulated at EU level, but those in paper, card or ink subject to variable national regulations. The vote comes as new research finds that thousands of chemicals are being used in paper and board packaging without having their safety properly assessed.

The MEPs supported a call for the Commission to act in creating proper regulation of chemicals non-plastic food contact materials:

“the Commission should forthwith prioritise the drawing-up of specific EU measures for paper and board, varnishes and coatings, metals and alloys, printing inks and adhesives;”

They also highlighted the need to address problems that can be created by using recycled materials (e.g. in pizza boxes):

the use of FCMs made from recycled products as well as the re-use of FCMs should not lead to a higher number of contaminants and/or residues in the final product;”

The MEPs also voted for action on the use of substances that have been defined by the EU’s main REACH chemicals law as having properties of very high concern (SVHCs); currently there are no automatic restrictions on the use of such chemicals in food contact materials:

“Calls on the Commission to ensure better coordination and a more coherent approach between the REACH and FCM legislation, in particular as regards substances classified as CMRs (category 1A, 1B and 2) or SVHCs under REACH, and to ensure that harmful substances phased out under REACH are also phased out in FCMs;”

Many of the points made in the draft report are related to the overlap of REACH and the laws on chemicals in food contact materials; CHEM Trust have just published notes from a workshop we held on this subject in March.

CHEM Trust published a position paper on the problems of chemicals in food contact materials in January 2016, and the European Parliament’s research service published a study on the problems in May 2016.

Dr Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust, said:

“CHEM Trust welcomes this vote by the MEPs on the Environment Committee, who are sending a clear message to the European Commission that they need to urgently start working on proper safety regulations for chemicals in all food contact materials. 

It’s not acceptable to have materials in contact with food without proper regulation of the chemicals within them. We look forward to a strong endorsement of this report by the full European Parliament in the autumn”

This draft report from the European Parliament’s Environment Committee is due to be voted on by the full European Parliament in October 2016; for details of the process & relevant documents, see the Parliament’s Legislative Observatory.