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ClientEarth Communications

8th May 2019


European rules on chemicals used in the food chain do not protect public health

We have warned EU rules on harmful chemicals in the food chain are too weak and leave the public open to unacceptable risks.

The Food Contact Material (FCM) regulation controls the use of chemicals in any materials that could enter into contact with our food, including food packaging, cutlery or factory equipment in Europe.

We have submitted our answer to the public consultation on the evaluation of this EU regulation.

Chemical lawyer Lara Fornabaio said:

“The food we eat is not protected enough against harmful chemicals that may leach from materials used to produce, cut or wrap it. The FCM regulation is an old fashioned, lax framework that translates into unacceptable risks to public health as well as into obstacles to the circular economy.”

We have pinpointed two main flaws in the regulation:

  • A lack of harmonisation in safety requirements between European countries.
  • The lack of adapted provisions to prevent harm from chemicals classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction (CMRs) and endocrine disruptors (EDCs)

Lara added:

“Many materials such as card, paper, inks and linings are not controlled by harmonised EU level laws. When these laws exist, like for plastic materials, they are often outdated and not protective enough.

“The current system allows chemicals that are hazardous, such as endocrine disruptors, to be present in materials coming in contact with our food. A maximum level is set following a complex assessment, trying to anticipate ‘how much would be too much’. This approach is not protective enough of our health.

“We call on the European Commission to quickly amend this regulation to increase the protection of consumers against dangerous substances in contact with their food.”

Since the launch of the evaluation, ClientEarth, along with other NGOs, has highlighted the main shortcomings of the current regulatory framework and endorsed five principles to ensure that consumers are protected from harmful chemicals in their food.

The European Commission is expected to conclude this evaluation in early 2020.