On November 12, 2015 Christel Schaldemose, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) invited fellow MEPs, their aides and external guests to attend a seminar on “Chemicals in food packaging materials: Is the regulation of chemicals in food contact materials sufficient?”. The event was co-organized with the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

Starting with a general overview of chemicals in food packaging materials, Jane Muncke of the Food Packaging Forum (FPF) showed that not all chemicals present in food packaging are assessed for their safety, and that presently chemical safety assessments are mostly done by industry. Xenia Trier of the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Food) discussed that current chemical risk assessment practice for chemicals in food packaging does not address all health-relevant aspects, and suggested to limit the overall number of chemicals authorized and permitted for use. The consumer’s perspective was presented by Claus Jorgensen of the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals, who advocated for removing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) from FCMs and called for harmonized horizontal regulation for all chemicals in Europe. The food industry was represented by Ludovica Verzegnassi of Nestlé who stressed that for food manufacturers the lack of harmonized EU-wide regulation for most types of FCMs was highly challenging and therefore called for a simplification, thereby providing a level playing field for all food producers, enabling better consumer protection, and removing existing trade barriers between Member States (MS).

Giving the Commission’s view point, Chantal Bruetschy of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) pointed out that EU FCM regulations were advanced compared to other countries’ FCM legislation, but that there was room for improvement and that she welcomed the EU Parliament’s own initiative report (INI) as an excellent opportunity for collaboration on this issue. She considered the risks of plastic FCMs properly managed, but said it was impossible to authorize chemicals used in all other FCMs in such a detailed way as for plastics. Also, Ms. Bruetschy stressed that legislation must not counteract innovation, and therefore thought that not every detail of chemicals in FCMs should be regulated.

In a final summarizing statement, the event’s host, MEP Christel Schaldemose, said she was concerned about chemicals in food packaging materials for their effects on health, especially EDCs present in FCMs. As the rapporteur of the ongoing INI she hopes to give the Commission good advice on the issue. She pointed out that further consideration must be given to health effects and toxicological testing requirements, but also economic and environmental aspects like recycling of food packaging in the circular economy were important and needed closer analysis.

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Chemical Watch (November 12, 2015). “EU Parliament starts inquiry into regulation of FCMs.