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HEAL calls for coherent regulation of food packaging materials

PRESS RELEASE

Health group calls for coherent regulation of food packaging materials

Brussels, 26 January 2016 – EU legislation on materials which come into contact with food is seriously inadequate, according to the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

HEAL is seeking proper regulation of all types of “Food Contact Materials”, including a prohibition on the use of both endocrine disrupting chemicals and “Substances of Very High Concern”, or SVHCs, as defined under REACH chemical regulation.

At a meeting today in the European Parliament (1), Lisette van Vliet, HEAL’s Senior Policy Adviser states:

“Current EU legislation of food contact materials is not fit for its purpose of protecting public health. It permits chemicals that are prohibited in other products under other EU law. Equally worrying is the fact that it ignores today’s science on endocrine disrupting chemicals.”

Concerns about plastics leaching into food from packaging has already led to an EU ban on Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles and limitations on the use of certain phthalates in food contact materials made of plastic. Both these substances are known to be endocrine disruptors.

A recent study on plastic food containers by the Danish Consumer Council project, “THINK Chemicals” showed that chemicals can migrate from the plastic walls of the containers into any warm fatty foods, such as gravy or lasagna. (2)

Chemicals in any material that come into contact with food can leach into food or drink. This migration depends on how hot the material becomes, on the length of time the food is in contact with the material, the proportion of the food in contact with the material, and the food chemistry (chemicals migrate more into fatty and acidic foods, for example).

Some migrating chemicals that are a menace to health, including carcinogens, neurotoxins and endocrine disrupting chemicals, are falling through the EU legislative net.

Concerns relate to chemicals in two particular categories. First, the 58 chemicals that under the REACH legislation have been placed on the most harmful list (SVHC) and which must therefore be phased out. These chemical are currently permitted in food contact materials. They include chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction, or are bioaccumulative – capable of building up and persisting in the body, or have hormone disrupting or other harmful properties.

The second category are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which are associated with hormonal cancers (breast, prostate, testes) as well as reproductive problems (infertility, adverse pregnancy outcomes), metabolic disorders (diabetes, obesity), allergies, and neurodevelopmental problems (learning disorders, autism spectrum disorders).

A recent study estimated that prenatal exposure to the endocrine disrupting chemical, BPA was likely responsible for 42,400 cases of obesity in four year olds in Europe (with health costs of 1.54 billion euros per year). (3) BPA is used to make certain plastics (polycarbonates) used in food packaging, coatings used on the insides of aluminium and metal cans, and lid closures on glass jars and bottles.

In addition to known hazardous chemicals, there are other chemicals (so-called non intentionally added substances) that will migrate, and their identity and structure is not known (especially in plastics).

HEAL recognizes that these demands come at a time when the EU Commission has a drive for “Better Regulation”. Ms van Vliet says: “It makes no sense for the EU to be pushing Better Regulation but allowing these massive contradictions to continue between the law on “Food Contact Materials” and other EU laws regulating chemicals use. And it is highly inefficient for the single market to allow a roulette of defective EU laws, different or non-existent national laws, and whatever standards the food contact materials industry applies. Making sure that all the materials which come into contact with food are safe would better serve EU citizens, companies and actually produce better regulation.”


Note to journalists

  1. Lisette van Vliet, Health and Environment Alliance’s Senior Policy Officer will be speaking at the Food Contact Materials workshop in the European Parliament next Tuesday, 26 January. Agenda here: https://polcms.secure.europarl.euro... The event will be live streamed — join here http://www.foodpackagingforum.org/n...
  2. Chemicals from plastic food containers migrate into warm fatty foods, January 2016 http://kemi.taenk.dk/bliv-groennere... See the full test in Danish here: http://kemi.taenk.dk/bliv-groennere...
  3. Legler J et al, Obesity, Diabetes, and Associated Costs of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union, March 2015 - See more at: http://press.endocrine.org/doi/10.1...

Contacts:

Lisette van Vliet, Senior Policy Advisor, HEAL, lisette@env-health.org Tel: +32 2 234 36 45. Mobile: +32 484 614 528 Diana Smith, HEAL Communications and Media Adviser, Diana@env-health.org, mobile: +33 6 33 04 2943

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). With the support of more than 70 member organisations, HEAL brings independent expertise and evidence from the health community to different decision-making processes. Our broad alliance represents health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health research institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations as well as national and local groups. Website: www.env-health.org. Follow HEAL on Facebook and Twitter @HealthandEnv @EDCFree and @CHM_HEAL

Originally posted on 26 January 2016

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »

Members

HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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Phone: +32 2 234 3640
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E-mail: info@env-health.org
Press: Diana Smith

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