German consumer organisation Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VZBV) conducted a study on German consumers’ perception and knowledge of food packaging and food contact materials. This market research highlights the fact that consumers are confused about food packaging safety. While packaging is considered important by most consumers, 6 out of 10 of respondents said they considered themselves not informed enough on the topic.
Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VZBV)’s study notably shows that even if consumers are concerned about safety in food contact materials, they lack comprehension regarding chemicals in packaging. Food contact materials (FCMs) correspond to “all the materials and articles that are intended to be put into contact with food, and beverages, or will presumably be in contact with food, or beverages” and are regulated by the Regulation (EC) 1935/2004 of 27 October 2004 on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food. FCMs include food packaging, kitchen equipment, tableware etc. These items can be made from a variety of materials including plastics, rubber, paper and metal.
This new study of VZBV points out that consumers assume all FCMs have been tested for safety. As consumers are not informed enough on FCMs issues (according to the study, 6 consumers out of 10 consider that they are not informed enough), they rely on regulators and industries for safety. As Christiane Seidel from VZBV explains, “consumers assume that no unsafe food contact materials are on the market”, while in reality toxic substances can be present in those everyday products. Consumers are therefore exposed to harmful chemicals present in food packaging and kept in the dark about it.
Consumers are only able to safely use products if they are given the right information. Thus, this recent study clearly shows the need to reinforce information’s accessibility in order for European consumers to use FCMs safely and knowingly.
In October 2021, SAFE published Guidelines for consumers and consumer organization on the safe use of FCMs to inform consumers about the correct use of FCMs and the possible safety issues triggered by their misuse. SAFE also advocates for a new European regulation on chemicals in food contact materials which would ensure a high level of human health protection and stresses that the presence and migration of chemical substances in food contact articles must be measured, evaluated, and controlled.