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Food for Thought
September 2022
Welcome to 'Food for Thought', a newsletter sharing key updates on food contact material (FCM) policy, ideas for revised FCM legislation and useful resources. There are thousands of chemicals in food contact materials that can potentially migrate into our food or drink, and many of these chemicals can harm our health and pollute the environment. This is why we need more protective regulation.
Update on revision of FCM legislation

In March 2022, the Commission announced that the public consultation on the revision of the FCM legislation would be published 'soon' (reported in the April 2022 edition of Food for Thought). As of mid-September, however, it has not yet been released.

The Commission's website indicates that the public consultation will be published in the third quarter of 2022. We will be sure to include any updates on this in Food for Thought when we get them.

Over 100 groups urge US Congress to ban PFAS in food packaging

More than 100 environmental health groups in the US have written to the United States Congress to urge them to pass the 'Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act' which would prohibit any food packaging containing intentionally added PFAS from being sold nationwide.

PFAS can be used in food packaging to repel grease and water, and can leach into the food we eat and the water we drink. In their letter to Congress the environmental groups particularly highlight the risk of "creating a long-term source of chemical pollution that makes its way back to people through our drinking water, food, and air".

A number of states across the US have already moved to ban PFAS in food packaging, however this bill would enact a ban across the country.

In the EU, NGOs are calling for a rapid and broad restriction of PFAS chemicals in all non-essential uses, including in food contact materials.

French study on microplastics in bottled drinking water

Agir pour l'Environnement, a French NGO, recently published a new report demonstrating the presence of microplastics in popular bottled waters in France.

Out of the nine bottled waters analysed, seven were found to contain microplastics. The water with the highest number of microplastics per litre was found to be from Vittel Kids - a product intended for children - with 40 particles in the 33 cl bottle analysed (121 particles per litre). Agir pour l'Environnement writes that with an average of 131 litres of bottled water consumed per year, a child is likely to ingest nearly 16,000 microparticles of plastic each year.

Agir pour l'Environnement concludes that drinking water from plastic bottles can be easily replaced by the many alternatives already available (such as drinking tap water, using water fountains, or purchasing reusable glass bottles).

Food companies break their promises on plastic

Food and beverage companies are more likely to fail or drop commitments on plastic reduction than to succeed, according to a recent investigation by newspaper DW and the European Data Journalism Network.

DW and its partners surveyed food and beverage companies headquartered in the EU, and found that 24 had made 98 commitments on plastics in the last 20 years. Of the 37 goals that should have already been met, the investigation found that 68% of them had "clearly failed or were never reported on again."

The investigation also looked into company pledges on the use of recyclable plastics, inclusion of more recycled plastics, and other green claims such as ocean protection. The results raise concerns that voluntary commitments could be used as a way to greenwash businesses, without actual change being made.

According to the analysis, only with "legislation, public accountability and consumer demand" will corporations change their practices.

New webinars highlight studies on chemicals in plastic water bottles 

Over the summer, the Food Packaging Forum hosted two webinars on food contact chemicals in water bottles. The first webinar in June highlighted that recycled PET can contain higher levels of potentially harmful chemicals than new PET, news that has been previously reported on in The Guardian and in the April edition of Food for Thought. The slides are available here.

The second webinar in July featured research on reusable plastic water bottles made of biodegradable polyethylene. The scientists examined water that had been stored in the bottles after they had been put through a dishwasher. They found numerous chemical compounds in the water, some of which had migrated from  the dishwasher, and some from the plastic bottles themselves, including DEET, which had never before been identified in drinking water in similar studies. 

The webinar also featured an overview of the FCCmigex database, which maps the evidence of food contact chemicals (FCCs) that have been measured in FCMs and articles; either through migration experiments or from extraction tests on the packaging itself. 

This newsletter is produced by a collaboration between CHEM Trust, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and Zero Waste Europe (ZWE). Together, we are working towards creating a toxic-free environment where nobody should have to worry about the presence of health-harming chemicals in the products that come into contact with our food.

CHEM Trust is a charity based in Germany and the UK, with the overarching aim to prevent synthetic chemicals from causing long term damage to wildlife or humans, by ensuring that chemicals which cause such harm are substituted with safer alternatives. (EU Transparency number: 27053044762-72)

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is the leading not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects human health in the European Union (EU) and beyond. HEAL works to shape laws and policies that promote planetary and human health and protect those most affected by pollution, and raise awareness on the benefits of environmental action for health. (EU Transparency number: 00723343929-96)

Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) is the European network of communities, local leaders, experts, and change agents working towards the elimination of waste in our society. We advocate for sustainable systems and the redesign of our relationship with resources, to accelerate a just transition towards zero waste for the benefit of people and the planet. (EU Transparency number: 47806848200-34)
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