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New EU consultation on effectiveness of rules for chemicals in food contact materials

On Monday 11th February 2019 the EU finally launched a public consultation into the EU’s ineffective laws covering the use of chemicals in food contact materials such as packaging, pipes and kitchen utensils.

As we have highlighted in the past, the current laws do not properly protect public health, as many materials – like paper, card, inks and glues – are not controlled by harmonised EU laws, and where harmonised laws do exist (like for plastic packaging), these laws are too weak.

Researchers have found coloured napkins leaching carcinogenic chemicals, pizza boxes contaminated with hormone disrupting bisphenol A (BPA) and packaging of microwave popcorn that contains persistent PFAS chemicals that accumulate in our blood.

CHEM Trust first wrote to the European Commission on this issue over four and a half years ago, in July 2014. The current European Parliament agreed a very critical report on this regulatory system in October 2016.

Three years ago we published a briefing on our main concerns: “Chemicals in food contact materials: A gap in the internal market, a failure in public protection“. Our recommendations included:

  • Harmonised regulations for chemicals in paper, card, inks, adhesives, coatings, using a  closer link to the EU’s main chemicals law REACH to help generate the necessary information on the safety of the chemicals being used;
  • Action to substitute substances of very high concern and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) with safer alternatives;
  • Proper assessment of ‘Non Intentionally Added Substances’ or NIAS, which are  impurities and reaction products that can leach into food.

This consultation follows on from the Commission’s stakeholder workshop on the issue in September 2018 – see our blog on the event for more details, including the revelation that the current laws are not even being properly enforced!

The consultation will be open until 6th May 2019. CHEM Trust will submit a detailed response to the consultation. We will also summarise some of our key issues in a blog later in the consultation period.

Dr Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust, said:

At a time when some companies are trying to move away from plastic packaging it is hugely embarrassing that the EU has not managed to create a proper regulatory system for most non-plastic food contact materials.

It’s a scandal that such an important use of chemicals, next to our food, is not properly  controlled in Europe. Reforming these ineffective laws has to be an important priority for the next Commission, who should receive the outcome of this evaluation at the start of their term.