Food Contact Materials : the Problems with the EU Laws

Chemicals in food contact materials: a gap in the internal market, a failure in public protection

Food Contact Materials – food packaging, factory equipment, food utensils – almost everything we eat has been in contact with one or more of these items. The EU’s laws should ensure that chemicals used in these materials are safe, but they do not go far enough and contain holes.

CHEM Trust Policy BriefingChemicals in food contact materials: A gap in the internal market, a failure in public protection“, first published on 26th January 2016, outlines the key problems, and proposes some solutions.

European Parliament study and draft MEP report confirm problems with EU laws on food contact chemicals, chemtrust, MAY 12, 2016.

The debate on the regulation of chemicals in food contact materials is starting to heat up, with a new studyFood Contact Materials Regulation (EC) 1935/2004″ from the European Parliament’s Research Service (EPRS) echoing many of the criticisms that CHEM Trust made.


Food contact materials (FCMs) are widely used in everyday life in the form of food packaging, kitchen utensils, tableware, etc. When put in contact with food, the different materials may behave differently and transfer their constituents to the food. Thus, if ingested in large quantities, FCM chemicals might endanger human health, or change the food itself. Therefore, food contact materials are subject to legally binding rules at EU level, currently laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 which aims at ensuring FCM safety but also the effective functioning of the internal market in FCM goods.

The regulation sets up a general safety requirement applicable to all possible food contact materials and articles, and envisages a possibility for the adoption of specific safety requirements (i.e. further harmonisation at EU level) for seventeen FCMs listed in Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004. So far, specific safety requirements have been adopted only for four FCMs: plastics (including recycled plastics), ceramics, regenerated cellulose and so-called active and intelligent materials. Where specific requirements have not been adopted at EU level, Member States could adopt such measures at national level, which is the case for several widely used FCMs, such as: paper & board, metals & alloys, glass, coatings, silicones, rubbers, printing inks etc.

However, as reported by the majority of stakeholders participating in this survey, the lack of specific measures at EU level for some food contact materials/articles negatively impacts the functioning of the internal market for the relevant material/article and its food safety. Stakeholders – across businesses, consumers, environmental and health NGOs, researchers, as well as Member States’ competent authorities – are in favour of specific measures at EU level for the FCMs that are not yet harmonised at EU level.

Read and download the whole report Food Contact Materials – Regulation (EC) 1935/2004, European Implementation Assessment Study, May 2016.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Private Profit v. Public Health

Join the campaign to remove chemicals from the EU-US trade talks

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) are today launching a campaign call via a new website and Twitter account. The campaign aims to ensure that the EU-US trade talks do not undermine EU chemicals legislation.

The United States and European Union are negotiating a new trade agreement called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This agreement is a threat to the EU’s ability to protect people from toxic chemical exposure.

EU legislation is currently much more protective than US regulations. If chemicals are included in this trade deal, the EU could see its global leadership in protecting public health through tough laws like REACH watered down. In addition to pesticide legislation, TTIP could halt the EU’s progress on a policy to limit exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals.

What we want

The European Parliament has said that toxic chemicals should have no place in the TTIP negotiations. We agree and are calling for:

  1. Chemicals to be excluded from regulatory cooperation because it would provide new channels for private profit to hold power in the drafting or revision of EU laws.
  2. No elements of the controversial EU policy “Better Regulation” embedded in a legally binding trade agreement.
  3. No provisions enabling multinationals to sideline the EU courts and sue European states, the so-called Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) or Investment Court System.What we’re already doing
    Today, at the start of the 13th TTIP round, HEAL, CIEL, the European Environmental Bureau and ClientEarth wrote to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström to ask her to ensure that no elements of the increasingly controversial EU ‘Better Regulation’ agenda are codified in this legally-binding trade agreement. See Re: Call to exclude the ‘Good Regulatory Practices’ chapter from TTIP letter.
We need YOU!

We hope to bring together not-for-profit organisations to support our campaign, in particular those working in the areas of:

  • Public health
  • The environment
  • Trade
  • Toxic chemicals and pesticides
  • Cancer
  • Biodiversity (including those NGOs protecting bee populations)
  • Women’s and children’s rights
  • Not-for-profit health insurance organisations.

A new campaign to protect EU chemical laws, HEAL, 25 April 2016.

Génon K. Jensen, Executive Director, Health and Environment Alliance, Email, Tel: +32 2 234 36 40.

Lisette van Vliet, Senior Advisor, Chemicals & Chronic Disease Prevention, Health & Environment Alliance, Email, Tel: +32 2 234 36 45.

David Azoulay, Program Director, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Email, Tel: +41 22 789 05 00.

Aleksandra Terzieva, Campaign Coordinator, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Email, Tel: +32 471 93 17 08.

Protecting trade secrets: European Parliament MEPs strike a deal with Council

New EU trade secrets law could jail whistleblowers, block drug trial data access

New rules to help businesses obtain legal redress against the theft or misuse of their trade secrets were informally agreed by Parliament and Council negotiators on Tuesday. MEPs ensured that freedom of expression and information will be protected and that the new rules will not restrict the work of journalists.

“The agreement reached today with the Council faithfully reflects the balanced position that we, MEPs on the legal affairs committee, adopted by a very large majority. Our priorities have been met in full by the Council: protection of the fundamental freedoms of opinion, of expression and of the press, which concerns both journalists and whistleblowers, and preservation of workers’ mobility.”

said the European Parliament rapporteur, Constance Le Grip.

The rules will introduce an EU-wide definition of trade secrets and oblige member states to ensure that victims of the misuse of trade secrets will be able to defend their rights in court and seek compensation. The agreed text also lays down rules on the protection of confidential information during litigation.

Safeguarding freedom of expression and information

New EU trade secrets law could jail whistleblowers, block drug trial data access, arstechnica, Apr 14, 2016.

Throughout the negotiations, MEPs stressed the need to ensure that the legislation does not curb the freedom and pluralism of the media or restrict the work of journalists, in particular with regard to their investigations and the protection of their sources.

Under the agreed rules, victims of the theft or misuse of trade secrets will not have the right to redress if a trade secret was acquired, used or disclosed for the following purposes:

  • to exercise the right to freedom of expression and information as set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including respect for freedom and pluralism of the media;
  • to reveal misconduct, wrongdoing or illegal activity, provided that the respondent acted in order to protect the general public interest (such as public safety, consumer protection, public health or environmental protection);
  • to protect a legitimate interest, recognized by European Union or national law;
  • the trade secret was disclosed by workers to their representatives as part of the legitimate exercise of their representative functions in accordance with EU or national law, provided that such disclosure was necessary for that exercise.

No unjustified barriers to workers’ mobility

Trade Secrets Directive creates excessive secrecy and must be rejected, euractiv, Apr 11, 2016.

MEPs also ensured that the rules will not create unjustified barriers to workers’ mobility by clarifying that the rules will not limit employees’ use of the experience and skills honestly acquired in the normal course of their employment. These rules should not impose any additional restrictions on employees in their employment contracts other than in accordance with EU or national law, the agreed text says.

Next steps

EU ‘trade secret law’ may criminalize whistleblowers & journalists, petition warns, rt, 16 Apr, 2016.

The informal deal, agreed by the Parliament and Council negotiators on Tuesday, now needs to be endorsed by the legal affairs committee and the full House as well as by the Council of the European Union.


European Parliament’s vote turns health into a trade secret, eubusines, 14 Apr, 2016.

According to the agreed rules, “trade secret” means information which is secret, has commercial value because it is secret, and has been subject to reasonable steps to keep it secret. The new rules set minimum requirements for legal redress so that any member state may provide for more far-reaching protection against the unlawful acquisition, use or disclosure of trade secrets if it wishes to do so as long as it respects the safeguards set in the directive.

BPA: Dutch Ministry of Health recommendations for risk management

RIVM recommends more stringent EU standards BPA

More stringent European standards for safe exposure of workers and consumers to bisphenol A (BPA) were proposed in 2014 and 2015. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has concluded that new insights sufficiently warrant consideration of even more stringent standards and has recommended taking supplementary measures in the near future for a further reduction of BPA exposure.


RIVM recommends more stringent EU standards BPA, RIVM, 2016-03-03.
Bisphenol A: Part 2. Recommendations for risk management, RIVM Report 2015-0192, 2016-03-03.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a substance that occurs in numerous products, such as cash register receipts, building materials (paint and coatings), food packaging materials, toys and medical devices. Excessive BPA exposure is harmful to fertility and can affect the hormone system.

New studies show that BPA can impair the immune system of unborn and young children at a lower exposure level than the one on which the current standards are based. This lower level is roughly comparable to the current every day BPA exposure level of workers and consumers. As a result of this exposure, people could have a greater probability of developing food intolerances and could become more susceptible to infectious diseases.

Based on these new insights, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) advises the national government to reduce BPA exposure in the short term wherever possible. Special attention needs to be devoted to protecting small children, pregnant women and women who breastfeed. This is because developing unborn and young children are more sensitive than adults to the effects of BPA.

Ways to reduce exposure include developing safe alternatives or ensuring that less BPA is released from products. Additionally, workers can be protected against BPA exposure.

Lower exposure is also important for sediment-dwelling animals that experience adverse effects due to current BPA concentration levels.


New Law to muzzle Whistleblowers

The Trade Secrets Directive poses a severe threat to freedom of information

This post content is published via EurActiv, the European Media Network present in 12 EU capitals.

The new Trade Secrets Directive is meant to protect businesses from industrial espionage. But it will muzzle whistleblowers on public health and environment issues because it puts journalists, scientists and public authorities at risk of being crushed in court by corporations, writes James Thornton.

Whistleblowers are often at the heart of the world’s biggest stories. From Edward Snowden to Julian Assange, they have sparked repeated storms of controversy. The EU considers whistleblowers so vulnerable that it recently amended its own staff regulations to give them greater legal protection. Yet, when it comes to industry, the Commission is happy to propose laws that put whistleblowers in real danger of financial ruin.

On 16 June, policymakers in the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee will vote on the draft Trade Secrets Directive. It aims to protect companies against industrial espionage and unfair competition. Unfortunately, the draft law poses a severe threat to freedom of information.

The vote will fix the final form of a law which was moulded by corporations with almost no input from organisations working to protect public health. Resource-stretched EU officials gratefully accepted input from companies with a strong interest in shaping the EU’s transparency laws – among them, Michelin and energy giants Alstom and DuPont– as well as lobbyists BusinessEurope and the Trade Secrets and Innovation Coalition. This will have an insidious effect on public faith in EU institutions

See you in court?

The Trade Secrets Directive allows companies to withhold information on the health and environmental impact of their operations from the public. It does this by giving them the power to sue anyone disclosing data without their consent. This means public authorities, journalists and scientists risk being financially crushed in court by multi-million pound corporations. This is not only dangerous to society—it also flies in the face of that recently amended whistleblower policy.

It is not just a few brave individuals who will feel the brunt of the law. In passing it, the EU will make its own job more difficult. ClientEarth often challenges public authorities over their secrecy on issues like emissions, clinical trials and food safety. We know public authorities are already under pressure from industry not to disclose business information, even when they are legally obliged to do so. In its current form, the directive gives companies even more power over public authorities. This damages democracy, because voters will have less of a say than the head of a company.

Think back to the Tamiflu scandal. In 2009, European governments stockpiled the drug to treat swine flu amid global panic about the disease. At the time, we didn’t realise Tamiflu was ineffective at treating serious influenza complications, but Roche did. The drug’s shortcomings only came to light after health network Cochrane fought for access to Roche’s clinical trial data, and won. The Trade Secrets Directive would have jeopardised that outcome, and the data might still be under wraps.

Which law will be enforced?

The failings of the directive don’t stop there. It looks almost certain that the Trade Secrets Directive will put the EU at odds with its own commitment on access to information. The EU is a signatory to the Aarhus Convention, which guarantees people access to business information affecting health and the environment. By law, the Aarhus Convention should prevail over the Trade Secrets Directive. However, with no reference to the Aarhus Convention in the directive, public authorities can play it safe by simply refusing to disclose business information. In contrast to the potential penalties in the Trade Secrets Directive, public authorities do not risk paying out damages when they withhold information in breach of access to information laws.

The vote on 16 June is crucial for the Trade Secrets Directive. The draft law shaped by this vote will likely be very close to the final law passed by the EU. But there is still time to fix the directive and ensure it protects those releasing information in the public interest.

If policymakers implement these changes, the EU will have taken an important step to regain public trust, whilst protecting people and the planet. You can help them do this and stop the Trade Secrets Directive blocking access to information. Sign the petition. Show the EU you care about transparency, health and the environment.

The truth behind the secret TTIP trade deal

Video on regulatory cooperation in the TTIP negotiations

The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (or TTIP) is called a “trade treaty”. But if agreed, the TTIP would actually hand corporations the power to overturn democratically decided laws, on everything from environmental protections to food safety, through a system of regulatory cooperation and secret courts that only corporations would have access to.

More information

EU lobby register: 113 NGOs ask EU Commission to make it legally binding

ALTER-EU and others ask for full lobby transparency

This post content is published by ALTER-EU, a coalition of over 200 civil society groups and trade unions concerned with the influence of corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe.

window-cleaning image
ALTER-EU urges European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans to take strong and urgent action to create a high-quality and legally-binding EU lobby transparency register in a letter sent to him today, signed by over 100 non-governmental organisations.

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation ALTER-EU has urged European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans to take strong and urgent action to create a high-quality and legally-binding EU lobby transparency registerin a letter sent to him today, signed by over 100 non-governmental organisations and trade unions, and supported by the European Parliament Intergroup on Integrity.

The letter calls on the Commission to adopt measures to reduce opportunities for unethical lobbying, and to ensure a better balance between corporate and public interest groups in the access to, and influence they have on, EU decision-making processes.

Pam Bartlett Quintanilla of Access Info Europe,
a member of the Steering Committee of ALTER-EU said:

The EU lobby register still has major weaknesses. Vice President Timmermans promised a mandatory lobby register but his proposals are not mandatory for lobby groups. We need immediate steps that will ban lobby meetings with all Commission officials for un-registered lobby groups and we also need a legislative proposal that will ensure that the information provided in the register is relevant and complete and that there are strong sanctions in case of non-compliance”.

Natalia Alonso, Oxfam’s Deputy Director of Advocacy & Campaigns,
and a signatory to the letter, said:

A mandatory lobby register would help balance the influence that wealthy elites have over rule-making compared to public interest groups. The EU must put people first and powerful interests of a few, second“.

Jan Willem Goudriaan,
General Secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions
and also a signatory to the letter, added that:

A well-resourced system to register lobby firms is needed to ensure transparency, to counter the dominant influence of corporate Europe and to restore democracy in the EU”.

ALTER-EU, and the 113 signatory organisations to the letter, have specifically called on the Commission to:

  • Immediately extend its ban on meeting unregistered lobbyists so that it applies to all staff, to further boost registrations.
  • Make detailed proposals on the disclosure of additional and more precise information, including further details about the dossiers lobbied on.
  • Commit to an open and transparent process with other EU institutions to improve the lobby register, which would include substantial opportunities for input by citizens and civil society.
  • Commit to increasing the resources devoted to this area so that monitoring and enforcement of the rules can become far more effective.
  • Commit to including the objective of a lobby register that is legally-binding on lobbyists and thus truly mandatory (requiring legislation) in its proposed Inter-Institutional Agreement as a medium-term option to ensure that all EU lobbyists sign up.

Civil society groups have previously welcomed the steps the Juncker Commission has taken to increase lobby transparency at the European level, including the ban on senior Commission representatives holding meetings with unregistered lobbyists. However, since the ban on meetings with lobbyists only covers around 300 people out of a Commission staff of 33,000, the current measures still do not go far enough to ensure that the register is “mandatory” in practice.

Team @MicheleRivasi @HealthandEnv @Alter_Pesticide call for reductions in pesticides use

2015 : 10th Anniversary of Pesticides Action Week, 20-30 March

EU action outside the European Commission on the occasion of Pesticide Action Week 2015. In the video, Sophie Bordères, coordinator of Pesticides Action Week speaks about a recent study which discovered a number of pesticides in her body. MEP Michele Rivasi then speaks about the urgent need for EU action to reduce pesticide use. Séverine Perronnet, a young mother who took part in the photo action then explains the importance of knowing about the impacts of pesticides on pregnant women and their children.

Content on this post is produced by The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)

Mums and parents-to-be call for reductions in pesticide use

Mums and parents-to-be call for reductions in pesticide use
MEP Michele Rivasi (centre) joined individuals outside the European Commission to call for EU action to reduce pesticide use.

Sophie Bordères, coordinator of Pesticides Action Week, says she has residues of pesticides in her body that should not be there. Earlier this month, Ms Bordères discovered the pesticides contained in her body. She had taken part in a study in which a sample of her hair was analysed by the French association, Génerations Futures. Seven endocrine disrupting pesticides were found in all the hair samples of the 28 women participants in the study (the chemical substances are displayed on posters held up by those taking part in the action). She says that making known these findings can help raise awareness of the health and environmental dangers of pesticides, which is one of the key aims of Pesticides Action Week.

” Traces of several insecticides that are endocrine disrupters were found in a sample of my hair, including pyrethroids and organophosphates ” she says.

The study provided more evidence of widespread human contamination with synthetic chemicals. For those women who plan to become pregnant, the risks are a special concern for the vulnerable fetus in the womb.

Confirmation that the traces of one of the pesticides found in Ms Bordères’s body is considered harmful was very recently underlined by an announcement from the UN’s international cancer research agency (IARC).

Lisette van Vliet, HEAL’s Senior Policy Advisor on Chemicals and Chronic Disease Prevention, says :
Just last week the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified some of these pesticides as probable carcinogens. So the continual increase in hormone-related diseases, such as cancers of the breast and prostate and diabetes, is not an empty coincidence. We call on the European Commission and EU member countries to protect people’s health by phasing out endocrine disrupting chemicals as soon as possible. This includes the widely used organophosphate pesticide, glyphosate, known by its brand name, Roundup.”

Another study published in March estimated the health bill associated with exposure to endocrine disrupting pesticides at €120 billion per year in the European Union.

Lisette van Vliet, HEAL says that parents need information about the risks. The Danish government already provides women in the reproductive age group with advice on exposure to chemicals but most countries do not. “The European Union should be helping all member state governments to provide this information for future and current parents,” she says.

Meanwhile, HEAL has developed a list of available written and visual materials in different European languages.

Although information is vital, EU policy change is what will significantly minimise human exposure and bring down levels of synthetic chemicals and pesticides in European’s bodies. The 2009 pesticide package included a ban on the sale and use of pesticides that are linked with cancer, DNA mutation or reproductive toxicity and encouraged reductions in pesticide spraying in public spaces, such as parks and around schools and hospitals. However, the legislation required that the European Commission define criteria on endocrine disrupting chemicals if the package were to be fully implemented. Although this was supposed to happen by 2013, it still has not been done.

Europeans’ concerns about chemicals were reflected in a Eurobarometer poll published in September 2014. It showed four in ten Europeans worry about the impact of chemicals on their health.

Pesticide Action Week

EDCs exposure: burden and disease costs estimate in the European Union

Chemical exposure linked to hundreds of billions of Euros per year in health care costs in the EU only

Exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals is likely leading to an increased risk of serious health problems costing hundreds of billions (U.S.) per year in Europe alone…

crops-and-pesticides image
Many crops are treated with pesticides linked to multiple side- effects. The chemical exposure results in hundreds of billions of Euros per year in health care costs in the EU only. Image via tpmartins.

2015 Study Abstract

Rapidly increasing evidence has documented that endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) contribute substantially to disease and disability.

The objective was to quantify a range of health and economic costs that can be reasonably attributed to EDC exposures in the European Union (EU).

A Steering Committee of scientists adapted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change weight-of-evidence characterization for probability of causation based upon levels of available epidemiological and toxicological evidence for one or more chemicals contributing to disease by an endocrine disruptor mechanism. To evaluate the epidemiological evidence, the Steering Committee adapted the World Health Organization Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) Working Group criteria, whereas the Steering Committee adapted definitions recently promulgated by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency for evaluating laboratory and animal evidence of endocrine disruption. Expert panels used the Delphi method to make decisions on the strength of the data.

Expert panels achieved consensus at least for probable (>20%) EDC causation for IQ loss and associated intellectual disability, autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, childhood obesity, adult obesity, adult diabetes, cryptorchidism, male infertility, and mortality associated with reduced testosterone. Accounting for probability of causation and using the midpoint of each range for probability of causation, Monte Carlo simulations produced a median cost of €157 billion (or $209 billion, corresponding to 1.23% of EU gross domestic product) annually across 1000 simulations. Notably, using the lowest end of the probability range for each relationship in the Monte Carlo simulations produced a median range of €109 billion that differed modestly from base case probability inputs.

EDC exposures in the EU are likely to contribute substantially to disease and dysfunction across the life course with costs in the hundreds of billions of Euros per year. These estimates represent only those EDCs with the highest probability of causation; a broader analysis would have produced greater estimates of burden of disease and costs.

Sources and more information
  • Estimating Burden and Disease Costs of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union, Endocrine Society, doi/pdf/10.1210/jc.2014-4324, March 05, 2015.
  • Male Reproductive Disorders, Diseases, and Costs of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union, Endocrine Society, doi/pdf/10.1210/jc.2014-4325, March 05, 2015.
  • Obesity, Diabetes, and Associated Costs of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union, Endocrine Society, doi/pdf/10.1210/jc.2014-4326, March 05, 2015.
  • Neurobehavioral Deficits, Diseases and Associated Costs of Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union, Endocrine Society, doi/pdf/10.1210/jc.2014-4323, March 05, 2015.
  • Chemical Exposure Linked to Billions in Health Care Costs, nationalgeographic, MARCH 5, 2015.

Time now for a legal light on EU lobbying?

A European Parliament journalist interviews Sylvie Guillaume

The new Transparency Register was to end the opaque lobbying practices dogging the EU, but will it be effective? We ask a leading MEP on the issue Sylvie Guillaume.

More information