The 8th Food Packaging Forum (FPF) workshop “Improving the chemical safety of food contact articles: Linking policy-making with scientific research” took place online on October 21-23, 2020. The opening talk by Martin Scheringer from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Switzerland, who is also the president of the Food Packaging Forum’s (FPF) foundation board, presented a summary of FPF’s work in the past year.
In March 2020, FPF staff, together with over two dozens of international scientists and experts, published a peer-reviewed scientific consensus statement on food contact chemicals (FCCs) and human health. The statement identified seven specific areas for improvement and urged decision makers to reduce exposure to harmful FCCs originating from food contact materials and articles (FCMs/FCAs), as this is expected to contribute to prevention of chronic diseases prevalent in the human population.
The chemical complexity of FCMs and FCAs presents a continuous challenge with regard to hazard and risk assessment for FCCs that may migrate into food and thus contribute to human chemical exposure. Indeed, many FCCs are known to be hazardous to human health. At the same time, many FCCs remain poorly characterized or even entirely unknown, as is often the case for non-intentionally added substances (NIAS), but also, surprisingly, for many intentionally added substances (IAS) as well. Overall, “there is a lot of uncertainty associated with the human exposure to FCCs and with the health effects to which these chemicals may contribute,” Scheringer emphasized.
In an effort to reduce this uncertainty, FPF initiated the project Food Contact Chemicals and Human Health (FCCH). In a first step, a database of intentionally added food contact chemicals (FCCdb) has been compiled. Currently, the FCCdb records over 12’000 FCCs extracted from over 50 globally sourced regulatory and industry documents. Based on available authoritative hazard data, 608 of these FCCs were prioritized as the most urgent substitution candidates. Based on authoritative hazard data, 608 FCCs were prioritized as the most urgent substitution candidates. A publication describing the FCCdb has been recently accepted in Environment International and will soon appear in print.
Currently, the FCCH project members focus on systematic mapping of literature on FCCs that are known to migrate or be extractable from FCMs/FCAS. Next, human exposure evidence from biomonitoring studies will be reviewed, and then the associations between the human exposure-relevant FCCs and adverse human health outcomes will be addressed.
Scheringer stressed that more types of toxic effects need to be considered, in particular endocrine disruption, when identifying FCCs which could be hazardous to human health. In addition, mixture toxicity needs to be properly addressed. To identify viable solutions, a continuous multi-stakeholder dialogue is essential, and one of the FPF’s mission is supporting and further developing such a dialogue among FCM experts from different backgrounds.
Muncke, J., et al. (2020). “Impacts of food contact chemicals on human health: a consensus statement.” Environmental Health 19: 25.