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Toxic chemicals in disposable tableware and packaging. Survey on PFAS in the EU

The addition of toxic chemicals in disposable packaging and tableware is still systematic in the EU, as evidenced by the PFAS survey conducted by a group of organizations that collected and analyzed 99 samples in fast foodtakeaway, supermarkets and shops online in six European countries. Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. (1)

The chemical safety of food and thus public health are in danger, the operators are as aware of this as the authorities, the European Commission insists on failing to manage the risk as it is its duty. (2)

PFAS, forever chemicals

Laboratory analyzes showed the presence of perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) in all samples. Over 4.500 defined synthetic chemicals are included under this name 'forever chemicals', due to their long persistence in the environment, highly toxic to humans.

One third of the packaging analyzed (32 out of 99) - including those of the main global chains of fast food such as McDonald's, KFC, Subway or Dunkin 'Donuts - turns out to contain intentionally added PFAS. To treat paper and cardboard on the surface in the most economical and dangerous way, in order to make them resistant to water and grease.

PFAS, toxicity

The PFAS they migrate from packaging to food. This increases the exposure of the population, already subject to environmental contamination, to risks of carcinogenesis and genotoxicity, already widely emerged in toxicological research.

Scientific literature demonstrates how these chemicals accumulate in the body and cause damage to growth, learning and behavior in infants and children. In addition to interfering with the endocrine and immune systems, it raises cholesterol levels and reduces fertility. (3)

Non-toxic alternatives, the Danish example

Making packaging resistant to water and oil without adding PFAS is possible. The 'clean' or slightly contaminated part of the sample demonstrates this.

And it's shameful McDonald's approach, among others. 'None of the paper potato chips bags purchased in Denmark showed any signs of PFAS treatment, while the same item, when sampled in the Czech Republic and the UK, contained any signs of PFAS treatment.'.

The reason is that Denmark has banned the use of PFAS since July 2020, while in the rest of Europe the choice is left to the low sensitivity of operators. (4)

Responsibility of the European Commission

'The time has come for the EU to act to immediately and permanently ban the entire class of PFAS in food packaging'thunders Arnika's Jitka Strakova. In line with previous appeals made to Brussels by panels of scientific experts. (5)

The European Commission instead - in addition to postponing the dutiful, systematic reform of the MOCA (Materials and Objects intended to come into contact with Food) regulations - it insists on neglecting the serious public health risks associated with exposure to toxic chemicals. (6)


Marta Strinati and Dario Dongo


(1) The study is sponsored by the Czech NGO Arnika and was conducted in collaboration with BUND (Germany), CHEM Trust (UK), Danish Consumer Council (Denmark), Générations Futures (France), Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) (Belgium), Tegengif-Erase all Toxins (Netherlands), International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) (International) and ClientEarth (UK).

The text of the report, complete with tables, is available , here

(2) Marta Strinati. Materials in contact with food, the snail reform slips again. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 17.2.20/XNUMX/XNUMX,  https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/imballaggi/materiali-a-contatto-con-gli-alimenti-la-riforma-lumaca-slitta-ancora 

(3) Alberto Mantovani. Chemicals and decreased immune response. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 21.4.21 https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/sostanze-chimiche-e-diminuita-risposta-immunitaria

(4) Dario Dongo, Luca Foltran. PFAS, ban in Denmark on MOCAs in paper and cardboard. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). two. https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/imballaggi/pfas-divieto-in-danimarca-sui-moca-in-carta-e-cartone

(5) Marta Strinati. Chemical toxicity of materials in contact with food, appeal of the researchers. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.3.20/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/imballaggi/tossicità-chimica-dei-materiali-a-contatto-con-gli-alimenti-appello-dei-ricercatori

(6) Marta Strinati. Endocrine disruptors, new database reveals Brussels omissions. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.6.20/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/interferenti-endocrini-una-nuova-banca-dati-rivela-le-omissioni-di-bruxelles

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".

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