Nowadays, a wide range of products claim to be made from natural and organic ingredients and to be healthy to both humans and the planet, but organics regulations in the European Union only define organic food products, and in the USA additionally regulate cosmetics and personal care products. Anything outside food and agricultural ingredients (including the packaging) is only subject to industry self-regulation.
Any consumer product can legally bear an ‘eco’, ‘bio’ or ‘organic’ label; the only limits are set by consumer protection laws and local trading standard agencies, which state it should not be implied that a product has characteristics that it does not have, including environmental claims. However, non-organic statutory regulations and laws have no power to regulate and ensure whether goods sold and labelled ‘eco’, ‘bio’ or ‘organic’ are in fact organic.
Existing regulations for organic produce fail to guarantee the safety of organic food packaging in an effective manner, so foods can be contaminated by the packaging. Food and Drug Administration regulations aim to tackle the issue of product packaging leaching harmful toxins into contents stating that a product is considered ‘adulterated’ if ‘its container is composed, in whole or in part, of any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render the contents injurious to health’.
Approved food plastic packaging materials used for organic food have been shown to release toxic substances such as formaldehyde, phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), known as hormone-disruptor chemicals and carcinogens. There are thousands of different chemical substances used to make food contact materials, many of which have not been adequately safety tested. Regulations do not specifically protect organic food from food packaging risks; moreover, organic food packaging is not only contaminating the food, but it also adds to the environmental pollution and goes to landfill.
There is an urgent need for harmonised global regulations and standards, not only for food, but also for all consumer goods, with many non-food goods industries being directly responsible for most of today’s environmental pollution (e.g. plastics). Global, harmonised and comprehensive organics regulations on all goods would avoid environmental disasters such as the plastic pollution we are immersed in today, with oceans suffocating from plastics and expected to have more plastic than fish by 2050.