With the EU regulations for the use of single-use plastics, we have a question: are the biobased alternative materials a risk for coeliacs?
In 2019, Directive (EU) 2019/904 was approved, at their article 5 includes the reduction of certain plastic products and establishes that Member States of the UE will stop the introduction of single-use plastic products on the European market due to the impact they have in the environment.
Although the entire scope of the rule is different in each country, it’s true that many restaurants and food producers are starting to use this type of tableware made from bio based materials that are more respectful with the environment.
The problem with this for the coeliac patients is that those alternative materials to plastic that are being used to develop come in many cases from cereals with gluten such as wheat or barley, but also from pasta or biscuits. For this reason, from some coeliac associations have promoted studies to see if there is migration from the tableware to food since the stability of many of these materials is much more variable and changes depending on the food and the temperature.
From the results of these small trials, we know that there is migration from packaging (biodegradable made from cereals with gluten) to food, so therefore, it’s an emerging risk for people with celiac disease. For this reason, the Celiac Association of Italy (AIC) is running a larger trial about this topic where various types of packaging (cereals, pasta, etc.) are studied properly because both Regulations 1935/2004 (article 3) and 178/2002 (article 14) include the need to control if there are migrations and the protection of the sensitive population, respectively. But as it’s a regulation for plastic materials, cereals or preparations such as pasta or cookies are not considered as a raw material to control.
We know from conversations with the industry itself that at this time manufacturer are very focused on achieving higher incorporation rates of bio based materials and on improving the biodegradability / compostability of their materials in different media and conditions. But we consider that it is essential not to ignore the situation and carry out studies that confirm the absence of allergens in these types of products, evaluating their safety for coeliac patients.
For all this, it should be noted that:
- Recommendation 2019/794 (which is the most recent) does not specifically include biodegradable packaging made from gluten-containing cereals in the contact materials that must be sampled to test global migration.
- Currently EFSA has not published any opinion or benchmark study.
- From AOECS we’re waiting for the results of the study that they are developing from Italy, but a letter was sent to the European Commission and EFSA asking about this topic early this year, a response has not yet been received.
- It is important for coeliacs to be careful with this type of products and try to use products that come from alternative raw materials to plastic but come from safe cereals for coeliacs.
- Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council
- Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/2151