Consumers organization calls for a reform of the EU food packaging legislation

21 December 2021

Consumers’ concern about the safety of food packaging materials is increasing across Europe. According to data from the Eurobarometer, 86% of European consumers have worries about Food Contact Materials (FCMs) and in particular chemicals commonly used in food packaging, with four in five reporting concerns about chemicals in everyday products.

In this context, the European consumer organisation BEUC, through a speech at a European Food Forum (EFF) event, publicly committed to take issue with the current EU food packaging legislation, calling for an adequate EU reform on the matter.

In support of its position, BEUC has recalled recent research into food packaging safety revealing worrying findings for EU consumers’ health.

Among those, a survey on fast food packaging from the the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals (together with Belgian, Italian, and Portuguese consumers organizations) conducted in 2017 found that almost one-third of the 65 analysed fast food packaging contained high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These substances are endocrine disruptors, known for their potential of bioaccumulating in the environment and their potential of carcinogenicity. PFAS’ harmfulness, when used in food packaging, lies in the risk of their migration into food, causing concerns for human health.  

A further 2017 study by the Norwegian Consumer Council discovered the presence of PFAS in Hello Kitty branded bottles. In this regard, BEUC raised additional concerns on the advertisement of such products to children, and on the legality of these products as their migration level was below the legal limit.

Moreover, in a general analysis around the issue, the statement raised concerns that packaging manufacturers, in an effort to eliminate single use plastics, have increased the use of unregulated materials, such as paper, bamboo, or other plant-based materials, which are equally harmful to human health, and ultimately raise the issue of unfounded green claims.

The following recommendations urge the European Commission to introduce stricter regulation to reduce food contamination, notably via:

  • A preventive approach should be established by phasing out all harmful substances from food packaging (application of the precautionary principle)
  • The “no data, no market” principle should be applied, requiring food operators to document the safety of substances used for FCMs
  • An effective enforcement of existing and future measures should be enabled, with Member States allocating more resources to strictly monitor (potentially) harmful chemicals from migrating into food from food packaging
  • Sustainable alternatives to conventional plastic should be fostered through regulations.

SAFE shares these concerns and hopes that such recommendations will drive the European Commission’s actions towards a revision  of the EU regulatroy framework on chemicals in food contact materials (FCMs). The presence and migration of potentially harmful chemical substances in FCMs must be strictly measured, monitored, evaluated, and controlled, in the best interest of consumers and their health.

To know more about SAFE actions on FCMs check our website and SAFE’s Guidelines for safe use of food contact materials