Chemicals found in food packaging could be posing a risk to our health according to 33 scientists across the globe. Scientists have urged for immediate action to be taken on the number of hazardous and toxic chemicals that are found in food packaging.

The scientists in a statement released today concluded that chemicals used in food packaging are not sufficiently assessed in terms of their impact on human health.

Based on earlier research, it was found that some of the chemicals found in food packaging made from recycled plastic was found to be linked to various chronic diseases, including diabetes and cancer.

The report ‘Impacts of food contact chemicals on human health: a consensus statement’ was published in the journal Environmental Health and was based on more than 1,200 peer-reviewed studies. It includes authors from the Philippines, the USA, and Sweden, and sets out seven suggestions for improvement.

The statement found that roughly 12,000 chemicals could potentially be used in the manufacturing of food contact materials, many of which lack data on their hazardous properties. These unknown chemicals are not able to be assessed under current regulations.

Known hazardous chemicals are also being used in the manufacturing of food packaging and evidence suggests that these chemicals are migrating from food contact articles into food. Food contact articles are materials which come into contact with food at any point.

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Food Packaging Forum managing director Jane Muncke said: “Virtually everyone who eats food is exposed to food contact chemicals (FCCs), but some are known to be hazardous and many are untested or even completely unknown.

“Chemical migration from food contact articles like packaging must be systematically addressed, and any hazardous substances removed – and not just replaced with other, less well-studied chemicals that turn out to be regrettable substitutions.”

Authors of the report highlighted how chemical safety is being ignored in more recent surges to produce environmentally friendly packaging. They said that a multi-stakeholder dialogue should be established in order to focus more on the issues of improving public health while remaining sustainable and contributing to a circular economy.

Brunel University London global challenges lecturer Dr Olwenn Martin said: “It is particularly important to highlight this issue now as efforts towards a circular economy and the design of recycling processes and recycled products redouble.

“Recycling processes may increase the levels of chemicals found in, and therefore migrating from, food packaging. This aspect needs to be considered at the design stage for solutions to be truly sustainable.”