Health risks of materials in contact with food: tighter EU safety rules needed
EU-wide safety rules are needed for more materials in contact with food, such as those used in packaging, kitchen utensils and tableware, say MEPs in a non-binding resolution voted on Thursday. They note that only some of these materials, such as plastics and ceramics, have been fully tested for safety for human health. Others, including varnishes and coatings, inks and adhesives, have yet to be fully tested.
“This is how we ensure that the materials that are in direct contact with our food are safe. The current regulation allows for arrangements concerning 17 substances, but only four of these, at the moment, are harmonised at EU level. The rest are up to the member states to work out” said rapporteur Christel Schaldemose (S&D, DK). Her report was approved by 559 votes to 31, with 26 abstentions.
“The lack of harmonised rules causes problems for consumers, for companies, and for the authorities. In reality, it means that the single market is not a single market: some countries have high standards, other low standards. We know from various studies that it is what is in the packaging that is causing health problems. The EU should therefore revise the current legislation. Food safety should mean the same thing across the EU” she added.
Chemicals leaching from food contact materials (FCMs) into food could endanger human health or change the composition of the foodstuffs, say MEPs.
Only four out of 17 EU-listed FCMs are currently covered by specific safety measures foreseen in existing EU legislation: plastics, ceramics, regenerated cellulose and “active and intelligent” materials.
Given the prevalence of FCMs on the EU market and the risk that they could pose to human health, the EU Commission should prioritise the drawing up of specific EU measures for paper and board, varnishes and coatings, metals and alloys, printing inks and adhesives, MEPs say.
Note to editors
According to a study by the European Parliament’s EPRS research department, a number of substances present in food contact materials have not been assessed, in particular for impurities in the finished material and/or possible chemical reactions with it.
The EPRS says there is a broad consensus among stakeholders that the lack of uniform measures is detrimental to public health and the protection of the environment, and to the smooth functioning of the internal market.
Procedure: Oral question to Council and the Commission with resolution