Protecting our health also means switching to toxic-free food packaging

2021-04-07

As the world looks to rebuild after COVID, we need to change our approach to the environment, particularly the chemicals and single-use plastics involved in food packaging, writes Frédérique Ries.

Frédérique Ries is a Belgian MEP and vice-chair of the Renew Group. She sits on several committees, including the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

COVID-19 has hit all countries hard, especially in the European Union, but its impact has been the hardest on those populations that were already vulnerable, who are more exposed to the disease, less likely to have access to quality health care services.

“Building a fairer, healthier world for everyone” – the theme of this year’s World Health Day – is entirely appropriate.

We need to change many things in our approach to nature, but also in our mindsets, to focus on prevention, which is always a more effective policy than reaction and short-termism.

A typical example is the over-presence of harmful chemicals in our daily lives and the fact in particular that our food comes into contact with many hazardous substances.

There is a wide body of literature on the impacts of harmful chemicals on human health. Many are recognised by the scientific community to interfere with the endocrine system, impair development and impact our nervous and immune systems.

Scientists and NGOs have raised the alarm on the need to remove these chemicals from consumers products and notably food packaging. Indeed, one of the most common ways consumers are exposed to harmful chemicals is through food and beverage, and the products we use to package, store and cook food.

In Europe, over 8,000 chemicals are used in the manufacture of food contact materials, including food packaging, and many have not been adequately tested for toxicity. Regarding plastic packaging specifically, 4,000 chemicals are potentially present and 906 likely present in plastic packaging.

Among those 906 chemicals, 63 were identified as being particularly hazardous for human health.

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Euractiv, 7 April 2021
; https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/opinion/protecting-our-health-also-means-switching-to-toxic-free-food-packaging/