New data confirms hazardous chemicals are in food packaging
CHEM Trust has long been highlighting the presence of hazardous chemicals, including endocrine disrupting chemicals, in materials that come into contact with our food. In May, the Food Packaging Forum published two peer reviewed scientific papers increasing knowledge and understanding of these chemicals and their use in food contact materials (FCM).
One study investigated chemicals which are both known to be harmful (as they are classified by official, publicly accessible sources as having at least one of the hazard properties mentioned in the EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability), and which are known to be intentionally used in food contact materials.
They discovered 388 Food Contact Chemicals of Concern (FCCoC) that can lawfully be used in food contact materials. Of these 388:
- 352 are known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic (CMRs);
- 22 are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs);
- 32 are chemicals with persistence and bioaccumulation-related hazards.
A further study, which received coverage in The Guardian, sought to address what might be a surprise to consumers: a lack of knowledge of what chemicals are in food contact materials. Two thirds of the chemicals identified in the study were previously not known to be in food contact materials, and on which there is therefore no information about their health impacts. Quoted in the Guardian article, is Associate Professor in University of California Berkeley’s Environmental Science, Policy and Management Department, stating that ‘it’s likely many of those unknown chemicals are harmful’.
Unfortunately, hazardous chemicals in food contact materials are just one route that people are exposed to hazardous chemicals in their daily lives. Air, water and consumer products are further routes that then expose us to a complex cocktail of harmful chemicals every day whose negative effects can interact together.
Action needed in the revision of FCM legislation:
Both studies emphasise the need for more protective EU legislation on harmful chemicals in food contact materials. Food contact materials policy has fallen behind other chemical safety laws, and as a result public health is not properly protected from harmful chemicals in food contact materials.
The ongoing revision of the food contact materials legislation must ensure that the most harmful chemicals, including the 388 identified as Food Contact Chemicals of Concern, are banned from food contact materials. Threats to human health resulting from gaps in understanding of chemicals in food contact materials need to be addressed, as does our combined exposure to toxic chemicals in daily life. We look forward to the public consultation on the revision of the food contact material laws, due to be published soon.
CHEM Trust is calling for the most hazardous chemicals to be banned in consumer products, including food contact materials, by 2030.
Read more about our latest policy work here.