Plastic food wrapping & bottles warning

Call for regulators to get tougher & phase out risky plastics

CHOICE is calling on the food industry to phase out the use of plastics containing potentially hazardous chemicals in baby products and food packaging. Consumers are being advised to avoid PVC cling film, used for wrapping fresh meat and produce, and to consider cutting down on canned foods.

CHOICE says although the risk is low there’s growing evidence that food can be contaminated by the use of certain types of plastics and cans and says consumers should be aware there are alternatives available.

Materials of particular concern include polycarbonate, used to make food storage containers and bottles, some of which are for infants; and epoxy resins used to line cans.

Both of these polymers can release bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked with serious health issues including an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The safety of PVC is also in doubt because of chemicals called plasticisers, which are added to make it flexible and soft. These chemicals can leach into foods and some cause health problems.

“A wide variety of foods are packaged using PVC or polycarbonate, including some tinned food and fresh food such as meat in plastic wrapping. PVC is used to make the gaskets that seal glass jars used for foods such as pasta sauces. There are safer alternatives, which should be used instead,” said CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn. “While there is vigorous debate about the various risks CHOICE believes the evidence, while far from conclusive, can no longer be ignored.”

CHOICE has tested food in glass jars and found levels of plasticisers well above limits set by the European Union. CHOICE says consumers who want to reduce their exposure to these chemicals should avoid food packaging and baby products with the voluntary identification code 3 (PVC) and 7 (a catch-all category which includes polycarbonate and plastics you can’t easily identify).

The consumer group warns that without clearer labelling and regulation it’s almost impossible for consumers to screen out all plastics which may contain BPA or plasticisers and make an informed choice.

Consumers can also demand better packaging. CHOICE’s investigation found some supermarkets and many independent greengrocers and butchers are still wrapping produce in cling film made from PVC when there are safer alternatives.

CHOICE wants the public to send in rinsed examples of plastic food packaging they are concerned about, along with baby products, which will be forwarded to health minister Nicola Roxon as part of a campaign for the use of safer alternatives and the phase out of risky plastics.

Consumers can post items to:
Plastic packaging
57 Carrington Road
Marrickville NSW 2204

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