• August 5, 2019
  • BEUC

The EU needs rules on chemicals in coffee cups, straws and other paper food packaging, consumer test shows


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A new lab test shows that food packaging made of coloured paper and cardboard - such as coffee cups and straws - may contain and release chemicals originating from the inks used for printing. Paper is the second most used food packaging material after plastic. Unlike plastics, however, there are no EU rules governing paper’s use as a food contact material.

The results show the need for EU-wide laws regulating the use and safety of all paper and board food packaging. With single-use plastics set to be banned in the EU as of 2021, the test raised safety concerns over some alternatives like paper straws.

Four BEUC members, national consumer groups, analysed 76 samples of printed paper or board food packaging, such as coffee cups, paper straws, printed napkins and grocery products. The test showed that:

(*) More than one in six samples contained primary aromatic amines, some of which are suspected to cause cancer. Nine samples contained these chemicals above the limit set in the EU Plastic Regulation.

(*) Almost all 76 samples contained UV filters. Some UV filters are suspected to cause cancer or disrupt the hormone system. Further analysis of 21 samples showed that UV filters migrate into food above the recommended levels in six products, including a children’s box of raisins.

(*) The safety of most of the substances found to migrate into food has not been evaluated by the EU food safety watchdog, EFSA.

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