How will the packaging industry navigate upcoming regulations on chemicals?


Chemicals frequently used in packaging, including BPA and PFAS, are set to be more strictly regulated by both the European Union and the US in the coming years as awareness of their environmental and health implications expands. According to McKinsey, packaging companies should take a proactive approach to tightening regulations on chemicals, with technology, supply chain collaboration, and clear internal and external communication identified as key strategies for successful adoption.

Re-evaluating BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics for applications including food containers, reusable beverage bottles, and tableware. It is also present in epoxy resins, which are used as protective coatings and liners, such as for food cans and bottle tops.

A key concern related to BPA is that traces of the chemical can migrate from food contact materials into food and beverages. The Mayo Clinic cites research that suggests BPA can disrupt endocrine (hormonal) systems, as well as a potential link between BPA and increased blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has previously concluded that “BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group (including unborn children, infants and adolescents)”, claiming that everyday exposure remained “considerably under” the tolerable daily intake (TDI). However, McKinsey notes that in December 2021, the EFSA published a revised risk assessment of BPA, followed by a draft scientific opinion re-evaluating the TDI in 2022.

According to McKinsey, the re-evaluation places the TDI of BPA at a level 100,000 times lower than the amount previously stated in 2015. Public consultation on the opinion closed in February 2022, but the final regularity verdict and adoption aren’t expected until December 2022. McKinsey says that, if this new regulation is approved, BPA used in all food-contact products would need to be replaced by BPA-free alternatives across EU member states.

Some regulation on BPA is already in place in the EU, including a ban on the use of BPA in the manufacturer of polycarbonate infant feeding bottles implemented by the European Commission in January 2011. In addition, France reportedly prohibited BPA from being used in all food-contact materials in 2015.

McKinsey says that regulation on BPA in the EU has typically been slower than in the US, where a number of companies have apparently already removed BPA from their packaging. Notably, however, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also stated that “BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods”, mirroring a similar historic position to the EFSA. McKinsey is seemingly expecting further regulation on BPA in the US, in addition to the EU, as consumer and institutional pressure continues to grow.

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Packaging Europe, 4-08-22