A new peer-reviewed study published by the Food Packaging Forum and others has found that food contact materials could contain up to 388 harmful chemicals, which should be phased out urgently.
The study, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, identifies 388 Food Contact Chemicals of Concern (FCCoC) that could 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.
Peer-reviewed studies have shown the presence of 127 of these chemicals in food contact materials.
“Our study provides scientific evidence that hundreds of harmful chemicals are lawfully used in FCMs in Europe today, and people are ingesting these hazardous chemicals with their food. We present here a ready-to-use list of priority chemicals that should immediately be phased out from use in food contact materials by policy makers.” – Jane Muncke, Managing Director of the Food Packaging Forum and co-author of the study.
Scientists from the Food Packaging Forum, ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology compiled the List of Food Contact Chemicals of Concern (FCCoC) by analysing food contact chemicals known to be intentionally used in food contact materials, and identifying those chemicals that had been classified by official, publicly accessible sources as having at least one of the hazard properties mentioned in the EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. These properties include CMRs, EDCs, chemicals with specific target organ toxicity (STOT), chemicals with persistence and bioaccumulation-related hazards (e.g. PBT, vPvB) and chemicals with persistence-mobility related hazards (e.g. PMT, vPvM).
The study also highlights that plastic monomers known to have carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic (CMR) properties have been found to be able to transfer into food. The Food Packaging Forum says that this finding ‘refutes the common assumption that monomers, which serve as starting materials for the manufacturing of plastic polymers, do not migrate from the finished food packaging’.
Action needed in the revision of FCM legislation
This new study emphasises 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.
CHEM Trust is calling for the most hazardous chemicals to be banned in consumer products, including food contact materials, by 2030.
Dr Anna Watson, Head of Advocacy at CHEM Trust said:
“This study adds to the large body of evidence that food contact materials in Europe can and do contain harmful chemicals. Reforming the EU legislation on food contact materials has to be a priority for the successful delivery of the EU Commission’s Green New Deal, if we are to protect human health and the wider environment from these hazardous chemicals.”
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