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Press Release: Hazardous chemicals associated with food packaging found in the body – new research across Europe calls for a strong legislative response

Press release: Hazardous chemicals associated with food packaging found in the body-new research in Europe calls for a strong legislative response

Brussels, December 3, 2020

A large number of harmful chemicals related to food packaging have been found in the human body. As revealed by the new research published today by the Zero Waste European Network (1), they call for strong action to ensure sustainable and safe packaging and fully protect the environment and human health.

The study tested the presence in urine samples of the chemicals commonly used in (disposable) plastic food packaging, namely phthalates and phenol. Scientists believe that these chemicals are related to diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, as well as to affect reproduction and Immune system diseases are related. Among the 28 chemical substances analyzed (2), an average of 20.5 chemical substances were found in the samples (the range of chemical substances found was 18 to 23).

This new research was conducted by Zero Waste Europe and its five members-Ecologists Without Borders, Rezero, Za Zemiata, ZERO, and Zero Waste Latvia, with participants from Belgium, Bulgaria, Latvia, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain (3) . The 52 participants included decision makers, artists, chefs, journalists and other public figures (4).

This research adds to a growing body of scientific literature that proves that consumers are exposed to hazardous chemicals through disposable food packaging (especially plastic) and link this exposure to multiple diseases. Once again, we see that public health has not been adequately protected by these toxic chemicals for a long time. We cannot continue to keep citizens ignorant of the impact of their purchases and consumption. This requires decision makers and packaging manufacturers to solve urgently. "Rezero Director Rosa Garcia (Rosa Garcia).

In March, a group of prominent scientists issued a consensus statement (5) warning about thousands of chemicals used in food packaging and other forms of food contact materials. The statement emphasized that, given that these chemicals (many of which are dangerous) can be transferred from packaging to food, their continued use is endangering human health. In response to the statement, more than 230 NGOs around the world signed a declaration of concern, calling on decision makers to take urgent action (6).

Earlier this year, the European Commission promised to propose amendments to EU legislation on food contact materials by the end of 2022 (7). Current legislation is outdated, inadequate and inadequate, and is widely regarded as failing to protect human health throughout Europe (8).

This long-awaited opportunity that requires revisions to a large extent is an opportunity that cannot be wasted. Marginal adjustments to current legislation will not work; if the EU wants to effectively protect human health, while establishing a sustainable food system and a non-toxic circular economy, it needs to choose fundamental reforms. "Add Justine Maillot, a zero-waste European consumer and production activist.

For the detailed background and background of this project, please refer to our background document.

(1) (2) 28 chemical substances analyzed include: 17 phthalate metabolites (MEP, MiBP, MnBP, MBzP, MnPeP) , MCHP, MnOP, MEHP, MEHHP, MEOHP, MECPP, ohMiNP, oxoMINP, cxMiNP, ohMPHP, oh MINCH and oxoMINCH) and 11 phenolic compounds (MEPA, ETPA, PRPA, BUPA, BPA, BPS, BPB, BPAF, OXBE And TRCS). (3) The samples were tested by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the results were analyzed by the Barcelona Institute of Medicine (IMIM). (4) For example, participants in Belgium include Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, EP Vice President Heidi Hautala, ENVI Committee Chairman Pascal Canfin, and MEP Frédérique Ries. Politico reporter Eline Schaart and Euractiv reporter editor Frédéric Simon also participated in the meeting. (5) The scientific consensus statement on the "Influence of Food Packaging Chemicals on Human Health" was led by the Food Packaging Forum and published on "Environmental Health" on March 3, 2020. (6) Statement of concern. (7) Farm-to-table strategy, released in May 2020; it is expected that “the committee will amend the food contact material legislation to improve food safety and public health (especially reduce the use of hazardous chemicals), and support the use of environmentally friendly, reusable Innovative and sustainable packaging solutions with recyclable materials and contribute to the reduction of food waste". The "Chemical Sustainability Strategy" issued in October 2020 further explained the revision and its goals. (8) The Zero Waste European Position Paper "Towards safe food contact materials in a non-toxic circular economy".

Contact information

Justine Maillot, consumption and production activist in Zero Waste Europe, | +32 487 347215

Eilidh Robb, European Zero Waste Communications Officer, | +44 753 1525899

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