Biodegradable Food Contact Materials: What is a stake for coeliacs?

Guest article by Verónica Rubio – Secretary General – AOECS (Association of European Celiac Societies)

The use of gluten and other allergens in Food Contact Materials has been researched for decades. However, since the EU launched its ban to single-use plastic materials, such as plates, cutlery, straws, cups and also food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, the research, demand and use of plant-based alternatives to plastics have literally exploded.

While conventional plastics are made from fossil resources (oil and natural gas), biobased plastics are made from biomass, which mainly originates from plants grown specifically to be used as feedstock, such as sugarcane, cereal crops, oil crops or non-food sources like wood waste. These bio-based raw materials are being used to develop tableware, packaging or food coating, which is in direct contact with food.

What are the risks for coeliacs and other people suffering from allergies? 

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease, caused by the ingestion of food containing or having been in contact with gluten. Gluten is a type of protein that can be found in few cereals such as wheat, barley and rye.  If it remains undiagnosed, coeliac disease can result in symptoms ranging from minor discomfort to life-threatening conditions like severe anaemia. Today, coeliac disease affects about 1,3 % of the population and the only known effective treatment is a strict life-long gluten-free diet.  

To understand the risk FCM could have in coeliacs, some members of the Association of European Coeliac Societies (AOECS) have conducted independent studies that reveal gluten can indeed migrate from biodegradable packages and tableware to food; hence e.g., contaminating originally gluten-free food.

While migration is currently included in the EU regulation about materials in contact with food, unfortunately there is no regulation concerning the mandatory information needed about allergens that Food Contact Materials (FCM) could contain.

AOECS is developing an advocacy strategy to raise awareness among the different actors involved, including the food industry and policy makers.

We invite interested organizations, to join forces with AOECS to gain clarity and better protection not only for coeliacs but also people suffering from other allergies.

Want to know more? 

The Association of European Coeliac Societies (AOECS) is a non-profit umbrella organisation made of national coeliac societies in Europe and beyond. Together with our members we represent the voice of coeliacs patients and their relatives in over 40 countries.  

We promote: 

  • strategic partnerships to raise awareness on coeliac disease and  
  • encourage research for improving the life of coeliacs, early diagnosis, better access to gluten free food and of course the cure of this disease. 

The AOECS owns the AOECS Standard for pre-packaged food products and the Crossed Grain Licencing System which is managed by our members – National Coeliac Societies in their respective countries. Thanks to our system thousands of safe gluten-free food products are available in the market, and easily recognised by any consumer.  

Click here to watch the webinar on FCM. 

Disclaimer: the opinions – including possible policy recommendations – expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EPHA. The mere appearance of the articles on the EPHA website does not mean an endorsement by EPHA. 

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