Global Consensus on Food Packaging Highlights Impact of Food Contact Chemicals

Article Author: Minjae Song, Class of 2023, Biochemistry Major, Protect Our Breasts Translator 

More people are becoming more aware of how chemicals can be found in everyday products, but did you know that chemicals of concern are also used in food packaging? Currently, issues regarding food packaging are primarily concerned with environmental waste while the critical aspect of chemical safety in food packaging is often ignored. In March 2020, a group of international scientists shared a peer-reviewed consensus statement urging leaders in the industry and government to recognize that chemicals can migrate from all types of food contact materials and articles and ultimately pose a threat to human health.


So, what are Food Contact Chemicals (FCC) and how can we avoid them? FCCs are “the chemical constituents of food contact materials and finished food contact articles, including food packaging, food storage containers, food processing equipment, and kitchen- and tableware.” These chemicals migrate into food from all types of food contact materials and articles, with smaller food packaging materials and articles possessing a higher migration rate.


According to the scientific consensus statement, “almost 12,000 distinct chemicals may be used in the manufacture of food contact materials and articles.” Over a quarter of chemicals used in food contact materials have NO available hazard data. In November 2020, a group of researchers created a comprehensive global database of these chemicals and identified 1,411 potential chemicals of concern. 466 of these chemicals were “identified to be substances of potential concern due to suspected endocrine disruption– and/or persistence-related hazards” (Groh et al., 2020).


Chemicals can be intentionally added to the food contact materials, but there are also non-intentionally added substances (NIAS), which are mostly unknown. Depending on the types of food contact materials, NIAS can migrate more easily than intentionally used substances. Furthermore, there is practically no information on the toxicity and risk exposure to NIAS.


As previously mentioned, research has shown that some of these intentionally added chemicals are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Recent studies conclude that even low levels of EDCs exposure can cause harmful health effects. Additionally, assessment of chemicals in food packaging has consistently ignored how EDCs pose an increased risk during developmental periods, particularly up through a woman’s first full-term pregnancy. Furthermore, people are often exposed to mixtures of chemicals found in food packaging, thus making it increasingly important to find out ways to address and reduce the use of harmful chemicals from food packaging.


The paper included seven key topics to be discussed and to take actions on in the future for developing alternatives for safer food packaging:

  1. Eliminating hazardous chemicals in food contact articles
  2. Developing safer alternatives
  3. Modernizing risk assessment
  4. Including endocrine disruption
  5. Addressing mixture toxicity
  6. Improving enforcement
  7. Finding practical solutions


It is important for us to be aware of the risks of chemicals in food packaging and to advocate for change in the industry to encourage a safer marketplace. Considering the health and safety of products, such as food packaging, is critical and necessary. Protect Our Breasts brand partners have either had their packaging approved or committed to safer packaging.


Muncke, J., Andersson, AM., Backhaus, T. et al. Impacts of food contact chemicals on human health: a consensus statement. Environ Health 19, 25 (2020).

Groh, K., Geueke, B., Martin, O., Maffini, M., and Muncke, J. (30 November 2020). Overview of intentionally used food contact chemicals and their hazards. Environment International.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is the author’s opinion. Our authors are not scientists. We are not providing medical advice, but simply sharing publicly available information. When we reference data and databases, we do so with the caveat that most are only as good as the data they are based on. While POB strives to make the information as timely and accurate as possible, we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the completeness, or adequacy of the contents of any site that is shared, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of these sites.  POB goes to great lengths to avoid declaring shared products as “safe” as there is no legal definition of the word “safe” at this time.  

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