Call to phase out chemicals in food packaging

Monday, 16 March, 2020

Call to phase out chemicals in food packaging

Approximately 200 environmental and public health organisations, led by the Unwrapped Project, have released a Call to Action in response to a Consensus Statement signed by 33 scientists. The Call to Action states that the chemicals used in single-use plastic and food packaging present a significant risk to human health — particularly the health of children. The Statement reveals that approximately 12,000 chemicals are intentionally used in packaging and other forms of food contact materials, with studies revealing that these chemicals migrate from packaging into food and beverages. Most of the chemicals in single-use plastic and food packaging are also undisclosed.

“It’s next to impossible to find options that aren’t wrapped in food packaging containing chemicals that represent a significant threat to human health. Current safety evaluations fail to consider impacts of very low dose exposures on the endocrine system and this puts children at the greatest risk of harm,” said Linda Birnbaum, former director of the NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program.

The chemicals used in single-use plastic (made of plastic, paper and board) include phthalates, bisphenols and PFAs. The lack of disclosure by producers regarding chemicals used in packaging means that the risks associated with the use of that packaging cannot be evaluated. Many packaging producers and managers are also unaware of the chemicals found in packaging products. Nearly 200 organisations have signed the Call to Action, calling for regulators to ensure that all chemicals used in food packaging are fully traced and disclosed, with harmful chemicals eliminated. The Call to Action also encourages the adoption of policies that support the transition towards safe, re-usable and refillable packaging. The Call to Action was launched in the United States and the Asia–Pacific region.

“Our current system of production and distribution of food and its packaging puts at risk the health of people, who don’t have access to information on the chemicals present in food packaging. Regulators must take immediate measures to eliminate hazardous chemicals from food packaging, and ensure a transition to make it toxic-free and re-usable,” said Justine Maillot, Consumption and Production Campaigner at Zero Waste Europe.

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