The Soil Association considers new standards to minimise harmful chemicals in packaging
The Soil Association is a UK charity working to transform the way we eat, farm, and care for our natural world. Through their subsidiary Soil Association Certification, the UK’s largest organic certification body, they certify organic products in different sectors, such as food, health and beauty, and textiles.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are often added to plastics to increase their flexibility and durability, meaning they are sometimes added to plastic packaging including food packaging. Phthalates are problematic for our health – some are known to interfere with our bodies’ sensitive hormone systems (also known as endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs) and others have been linked with reproductive issues.
The Soil Association is proposing to expand the restriction on phthalates, so that it would apply to all plastic packaging (previously the restriction applied only to packaging that would come into direct contact with food). It cites the health and environmental impacts, and availability of phthalate-free alternatives, as the reasons for the change.
PFAS are a family of chemicals that are often used in products due to their grease and water-resistant properties. Certain PFAS are known to be EDCs, and have been linked to a range of negative health impacts. They are known as the ‘forever chemicals’ as once in the environment they hardly break down. Testing of food packaging published by European NGOs including CHEM Trust in 2021 found PFAS in a range of food packaging purchased from the EU and UK markets.
The proposed new standard on PFAS would restrict all PFAS substances in certain food packaging, including greaseproof paper packaging and takeaway card clamshells. The Soil Association highlights that PFAS-free alternatives and reusable or removal options are already available on the market.
They have launched a consultation to gather feedback and understand how easily licensees will be able to comply with the proposed changes. The consultation is open until 22nd September 2023 and is open to the public.
CHEM Trust welcomes these proposed actions on phthalates and PFAS, and alongside other NGOs across the UK and the EU are calling for a ban on all PFAS in consumer products including food packaging by 2025.