New consumer test reveals harmful chemicals in paper and plant fibre tableware
A new report released today by BEUC (The European Consumer Organisation) highlights testing that found a range of harmful chemicals in non-plastic single-use tableware, often promoted as being a sustainable alternative to non-degradable plastic packaging. The results from this new test by consumer groups in four EU countries demonstrated that unwanted chemicals are prevalent in single use tableware made of disposable plant fibre bowls, paper straws, or palm leaf plates.
The products were analysed for PFAS – the ‘forever chemicals’, chloropropanols, and pesticides that have previously been reported in plant-based materials. Of the 57 sampled products, unwanted chemicals were detected above recommended limits in 53% (30 samples); several samples contained more than one of the analysed chemicals.
All of the chemicals that were tested for are concerning because of their potential health impacts. For example, chloropropanols are a group of chemical contaminants with carcinogenic properties. Among the pesticides found, several are either classified as Carcinogenic, Mutagenic or Reprotoxic (CMR), are suspected endocrine disruptors, or are not approved for use in the EU or both.
Unlike plastic materials, no EU rules govern the chemicals used or present in these plastic alternative food packaging materials.
There are thousands of chemicals in food packaging and tableware (‘food contact materials’ or ‘FCM’) that can potentially migrate into our food or drink. In Europe alone, some 8,000 chemicals can be used in food packaging and other FCM, and unfortunately many of these chemicals have been associated with harmful impacts on our health and can pollute the environment. EU rules on FCM chemicals are less protective than other EU chemical regulations, and need to be reformed.
Last week we published a report on ‘forever chemicals’ PFAS in food packaging, where we participated in a European-wide scientific investigation on PFAS in disposable takeaway packaging from popular high street brands. The study found intentionally added PFAS in a large number of greaseproof paper and plant fibre packaging samples. Read more about the study here.
- Read the full report from BEUC.
- Help us take action on hazardous chemicals in food packaging.
- To learn more about PFAS: read our PFAS in food packaging FAQ.
- Learn more about our work on FCM.
Photo credit: Anne Beck Christensen