Health Concerns Drive Consumers to Glass Packaging
A new survey published today reveals that people in the UK are concerned about the possible health risks arising from chemicals migrating into foods from packaging.
The findings of the survey show that 81 per cent of UK consumers have some concern about food being contaminated by packaging and over one third of people in the UK have a significant concern about this issue. What is also clear is that UK consumers worry about food safety in general - citing it as their number 2 worry, behind personal health concerns and ahead of terrorism, crime and political corruption. Parental worry over food safety is a particular concern with 62 per cent of parents worrying often about food safety for their children.
When asked specifically about packaging, 72 per cent of people in the UK believe that certain materials in packaging can cause a chemical reaction.
It’s not surprising then that in the UK, consumers rate glass as the safest packaging material for food and drink - with 38 per cent of people in the UK choosing it as their preferred packaging option for food and 65% rating it as the safest option for drink. Plastic is considered one of the least safe materials alongside tin cans. The survey also shows that throughout Europe there is a similar trend with a leap in preference for glass packaging over the past three years - today, 61 per cent of EU consumers rate it as the safest material versus 48 per cent in 2011.
Rebecca Cocking from British Glass says: “There is clearly some concern in the UK about the issue of food contamination from certain types of packaging sources but when we look to many other European countries, they have even greater worries about this.
“The reasons why it’s a greater concern in Europe are not entirely understood. Whatever it is, one thing that is clear is that there is a universal message across all of these countries and the UK and that is that consumers prefer glass, which is inert, as the healthiest material for food and drink. It’s time for us to look beyond the label that tells us what’s in our food and drink and also think about what our food and drink is packaged in.”
The findings come on the back of recent media coverage on scientific concerns about chemicals leaching into foods published in a report by a group of scientists in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (part of the British Medical Journal Group). Their report claimed that chemicals used in the packaging, storage and processing of foodstuffs might be harmful to health over the long term. This is because substances contained within the packaging can migrate into the foods we eat.
The report’s authors include Dr Jane Muncke from the charitable Food Packaging Forum Foundation. She says: “Chemicals diffuse from food packaging into foods in small amounts, and in the past this was considered low risk. But based on recent scientific understanding we now are concerned about even low levels of hormone active chemicals, and far too little is known about the mixture effects and especially about our exposure to such chemicals at critical points in human development, such as in the womb and during early childhood.”
The consumer survey was carried out by Friends of Glass, the consumer online forum run by FEVE, the European Container Glass Federation. It covers 11 EU countries including the UK from 24 February to 7 March. Interestingly, while UK consumers are concerned about the issue of food contamination from some packaging, their worries are not as strong as their European counterparts. Consumers in Poland, Croatia and Italy showed the greatest levels of concern.
As well as the survey, a digest of existing research into food and drink contamination from packaging, curated by the toxicologist and food scientist, Professor Dieter Schrenk, is also available to view at www.friendsofglass.co.uk.
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Notes to editors
The survey was carried out on line in 11 EU countries with a sample that is representative of the population. In the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Germany the sample was 1,000 people. In Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakian and Switzerland the sample was 500. Full survey results can be found at www.friendsofglass.co.uk
Dr Jane Muncke is an environmental toxicologist and Managing Director at the Food Packaging Forum Foundation. In her work she evaluates scientific information on food packaging chemical composition, migration and impacts of chemical exposures on human and environmental health. The Food Packaging Forum Foundation is a charitable, not for profit organisation dedicated to science communication and skakeholder dialogue on the issue of food packaging and health. It is funded largely by donations from the packaging industry but works independently of donors’ special interests, based on scientific principles. More information can be found at www.foodpackagingforum.org
Friends of Glass is an influential European consumer forum that supports and promotes the right of consumers to be able to choose food and drink products in glass packaging. It unites all those who believe glass is the clear choice for their health, their families and for the environment. Friends of Glass was initiated in 2009 by the European Container Glass Federation (or FEVE) in response to a pan-European survey commissioned by FEVE in September 2008 by the research institute InSites, which found that 74% of European consumers prefer glass packaging for their food and drinks.
The British Glass Manufacturers’ Confederation represents the interests of all sectors of the glass industry in the UK. Its main activity is in representing the industry at European, national and local level on a wide range of topical legislative issues. It also conducts independent research into all aspects of glass production and technology. http://www.britglass.co.uk
FEVE is the association of European manufacturers of glass containers and machine-made glass tableware. The members of FEVE produce over 20 million tonnes of glass per year. The association has some 60 corporate members belonging to approximately 20 independent corporate groups. Manufacturing plants are located across 23 European States and include global blue chip and major companies working for the world's biggest consumer brands. See more: www.feve.org