MEPs to vote on chemicals in food packaging | Breast Cancer UK

MEPs to vote on chemicals in food packaging

Published 5 Oct 2016

On Thursday (6th October 2016) Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will vote on a report about the implementation of EU laws on food packaging. MEPs will also be voting on an amendment to the report, which calls for a ban on the use of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in food contact materials.

The report from the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, urges the European Commission to draw up EU wide regulations for all food packaging. It also calls on regulators to recognise that pregnant and breastfeeding women are particularly vulnerable to the effects of hazardous chemical exposures, including exposures to ‘cocktails’ of chemicals from different sources, even at low doses.

Whilst the EU has regulations to control the use of chemicals, e.g. REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals), those in food packaging are covered under separate regulations (1) However, these regulations are incomplete and many materials such as paper, card, ink and coatings are not covered. Although some individual EU Member States have their own legislation, the majority do not. This means that hazardous chemicals that are prohibited or set for phase out under other EU laws could be used in some food contact materials.

This is problematic because chemicals used in food contact materials can leach into food and following consumption - into our bodies. Of particular concern are food contact materials that contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), such as BPA, which have been associated with various diseases and conditions, including an increased risk of breast cancer (2).

Breast Cancer UK has welcomed a proposed amendment to the Committee report that calls for a complete ban on BPA in food contact materials. Studies suggest BPA may be linked to breast cancer risk (3), and even very low levels of exposures have been found to have adverse effects on breast tissue (4). Breast Cancer UK has already responded to EU Commission proposals to lower migration levels of BPA in food contact materials and urged the Commission not only to ban BPA but to extend the ban to other bisphenols which may be used as BPA substitutes, as these are also suspected of being endocrine disrupting chemicals (5) and damaging to human health (6) and the environment.

BPA has already been banned from use in all food packaging in France, and is banned in packaging of foods intended for children under 3 years old in Sweden, Denmark and Belgium.

Breast Cancer UK has written to UK MEPs asking them to support this report and the amendment calling for an EU-wide ban on BPA. If you share our concerns, please consider contacting your MEPs and find out where they stand on this issue.   Whilst the European Parliament vote on this report is not binding, a vote in favour of a ban will send a clear signal to the European Commission that the people of Europe don’t want hazardous chemicals like BPA in their food packaging. 

You can watch MEPs debate the report on Wednesday 5 October and vote on the report on Thursday 6 October.



(1) EU Framework Regulation EC 1935/2004; EU Regulation on Good Manufacturing Practices for materials and articles intended to come into contact with food (EC) 2023/2006.

(2) Seachrist, D. D. et al. (2016). A review of the carcinogenic potential of bisphenol A. Reproductive Toxicology 59: 167-182

(3) ibid

(4) Pfeifer, D. et al. (2015). Effects of low-dose bisphenol A on DNA damage and proliferation of breast cells: the role of c-Myc. Environmental Health Perspectives 123:1271–1279.

(5) Ruan, T. et al. (2015). Evaluation of the in vitro estrogenicity of emerging bisphenol analogs and their respective estrogenic contributions in municipal sewage sludge in China. Chemosphere 124: 150-155.

(6) Li, M. et al. (2015). Bisphenol AF stimulates transcription and secretion of C-X-C chemokine ligand 12 to promote proliferation of cultured T47D breast cancer cells. Toxicology 338: 30-36.

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