On March 3, 2020, a group of 33 international scientists published a consensus statement urging decision makers in government, industry, and civil society to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals that are present in food packaging and any other food contact materials. The peer-reviewed consensus statement highlights seven specific areas in need of improvement, including: elimination of hazardous chemicals in food contact articles, development of safer alternatives, modernizing risk assessment, consideration of endocrine disruption, addressing mixture toxicity, improving enforcement and establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue to find practical solutions.
The authors of the consensus statement analyzed existing lists of food contact chemicals (FCCs) issued by legislators, industry and NGOs worldwide. They found that almost 12,000 distinct chemicals are potentially in use in the manufacture of food contact materials today, and that many have not been tested adequately for toxicity.
While there is a great amount of information for some of the most well studied FCCs such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, the authors emphasize that thousands of reported FCCs lack data on their hazardous properties and/or level of human exposure, even though these are critical data for determining human health risks. The statement further explains that there is an unknown but presumably even higher number of non-intentionally added substances present in food packaging (e.g., contaminants, degradation products) that have the potential to migrate into food, especially from recycled materials.
The Fern (March 3, 2020). “Scientists say lax regulation of chemicals in food packaging endangers human health.”
Jacquie Lee (March 3, 2020). “‘Forever Chemicals’ Rub Off Packaging Onto Food, Report Warns.” Bloomberg Law
Leigh Stringer (March 4, 2020). “International scientists call for urgent action on FCM chemicals assessment.” Chemical Watch
Steve Toloken (March 4, 2020). “Groups urge focus on packaging and toxic chemicals, including recycled plastic.” Plastics News
Sidsel Dyekjaer (March 12, 2020). “Scientists’ Consensus Statement on chemicals in food packaging provides food for thought for legislators.” CHEM Trust
Flora Southey (March 11, 2020). “Hazardous chemicals in food packaging declared a ‘global health threat’.” Food Navigator
Life and Chemistry Office (March 2020). “If you never buy packaged food, you can safely skip this article.”
Muncke J et al. (2020) “Impacts of food contact chemicals on human health: a consensus statement.” Environmental Health 25(20).