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Junk food packaging #health

Food Contact Materials 
©Ministry of Health, Luxembourg

Press Release

Thursday 6 Oct 2016

The consumption of junk food might not be unsafe in the short term, but even healthy food may present long term risks if carried in packaging which itself contains unsafe substances.

There is a range of items that come into contact with the food we eat every day, in the form of wrapping, packages or utensils used to prepare and consume our meals.

Food is indeed one the most significant sources of human exposure to chemicals, and we estimate the number substances coming into contact with it at around 15000.

These are known as food contact materials in EU law, which establishes safety standards for such items, without precluding further measures for certain materials nor individual member states from imposing restrictions that go beyond EU rules.

The implementation of this EU legislation was the object of a report in the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee, of which I am a member.

It was voted through in plenary today, as a timely assessment of the state of the applicable legislation, dating back to 2004.

Different enforcement efforts remain inconsistent across national jurisdictions.

And we need more EU level measures to better protect all consumers in the European markets from risks posed by such substances other than those that form the bulk of the packages or other items.

The impact of inks, glues and coatings, as well as substances present in recycled paper and cardboard has been underestimated, and the combined effect of various substances present in the same item remains absent from the European Food Safety Authority’s risk assessments.

This is a particular concern for foods which are much more likely to absorb chemicals leeched from their containers: liquids, fatty foods and products with a long shelf-life, such as conserves.

The presence of endocrine disruptors in food contact materials is a particularly sensitive issue, given the serious risk to human health that chemicals such as Bisphenol A can pose.

This is a common component of plastic bottles and cans. France pioneered the ban in infant products and has since moved to a full ban in all food packaging.

The EU has followed the example for milk bottles, but we should emulate a full ban for food contact materials across the union.

I am happy that a majority of MEPs joined in on that demand today.