EDF Health

New Updates to Understanding Packaging Scorecard Spur a Safer & More Sustainable Foodservice Industry

Amid growing concerns about the environmental impact of single-use plastics, consumers have increasingly sought out alternatives made with renewable materials—as demonstrated by the rise in popularity of the paper straw. Unfortunately, this summer many eco-conscious consumers were devastated to learn of a recent analysis of drinking straws that detected PFAS in paper straws.1

These toxic chemicals, often referred to as “forever chemicals” for their persistence in the human body and the environment, have been linked to serious health concerns and environmental contamination leading to additional exposures beyond the original PFAS-containing article.

The plant-based straw controversy serves as a poignant reminder that even seemingly sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives can harbor hidden health and environmental risks. It also underscores the urgency of tools like the Understanding Packaging (UP) Scorecard in helping foodservice companies navigate the complex landscape of sustainable food packaging to make choices that both protect human health as well as the environment.

Consumers are both wary of toxic chemicals in their food and more environmentally aware than ever. In a 2022 survey (PDF, 2.6MB) of U.S. consumers, it was found that “cancer-causing chemicals in food” are still the second most important food safety issue to Americans, right after foodborne illnesses. Further, 82% of consumers across age demographics are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, according to a 2023 survey of 9,000 consumers spanning Europe, North America and South America. With the ever-growing demand for sustainable packaging, companies need tools to help advance their planet-forward goals.

The UP Scorecard is a science-based online tool designed to assist foodservice companies in choosing foodware and food packaging that not only meets demands for safety but also aligns with their sustainability goals. One of the world’s leading foodservice companies, Compass Group, uses the UP Scorecard to help prioritize sustainability goals and drive down plastics and PFAS in their product offerings, as demonstrated in their case study.

The latest version of this sustainability tool, released [November 28, 2023], takes a significant leap forward: by improving its scoring system for toxic chemicals, the UP Scorecard offers a more comprehensive view of the health impacts of different packaging materials and how to choose healthier options for customers and the environment.

A Deeper Dive into the Updates

1. Enhanced Scoring System: The updated scoring system considers various factors, including food temperature, fat content, acidity, and more, when assessing the potential human health impacts of a certain packaging material. For instance, certain toxic chemicals may migrate into food at higher temperatures or have a higher affinity for fats. The UP Scorecard accounts for this, providing a lower score for packaging containing such chemicals when used to hold hot or high-fat foods. This nuanced approach ensures that procurement professionals can make more precise decisions based on specific use cases and product requirements.

2. User-Friendly Portfolios: One of the most significant improvements in this version is the ability for users to save and score portfolios representing entire business units. Now, foodservice companies can easily assess the sustainability and safety of their entire product lineup, making the decision-making process faster and more efficient for their procurement teams. And it makes it easier to see big-picture progress and advance toward longer term goals.

3. User Accounts: The addition of user accounts allows professionals to manage their tool preferences, save customized products and portfolios for future reference, and even collaborate by sharing their projects with others. This feature promotes teamwork and knowledge sharing within organizations.

4. Benchmarking Capabilities: The updated UP Scorecard introduces a benchmarking system that enables users to compare different portfolios. This function is invaluable for companies looking to continuously improve their sustainability efforts.

By leveraging the UP Scorecard, foodservice companies can make well-informed decisions that not only benefit their bottom line and meet consumer demand and expectations for safe food packaging, but also contribute to a safer and more sustainable food industry.

About the UP Scorecard

The UP Scorecard measures commonly used foodware and food packaging materials with a single yardstick to offer the first-ever, free, and comprehensive tool for making sustainable purchasing decisions for these products based on the latest available science. Scores are provided for plastic pollution, chemicals of concern, climate, water use, sustainable sourcing, and recoverability. Developed through an unprecedented collaboration of leading food service companies, NGOs and technical experts, the UP Scorecard provides an authoritative resource for businesses as well as for environmental and human health advocates.

Environmental Defense Fund is a proud partner on this collaborative effort to help foodservice companies both achieve climate goals while also protecting consumer safety. With the latest enhancements, it’s easier than ever to select food packaging that aligns with the highest standards of safety and sustainability.


1 The study detected PFAS in paper, plastic, bamboo, and glass straws.

Posted in BPA, Food, Food contact materials, Food packaging, Markets and Retail / Tagged , , , | Authors: / Leave a comment

EPA’s New Chemical Regulations: Industry Bias Must Be Fixed

By Maria Doa, PhD, Senior Director, Chemicals Policy, and Colin Parts, Legal Fellow

NOTE: This is the fourth in a series about EPA’s regulation of new chemicals. See Time for a New Age for New Chemicals, EPA: Now’s Your Chance to Get Foxes Out of the Henhouse, and New Chemicals Rule: EPA must require more info from industry.

A robotic-looking hand pushes down on the right side of a balance scale to unfairly influence the measurement.

What Happened?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed new regulations for its safety reviews of new chemicals under our nation’s primary chemicals law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). One of these proposed provisions would govern how EPA can change the restricted approvals it issues for new chemicals that may pose unreasonable risks. EPA’s proposed approach would limit the type of stakeholders involved and the potential for stronger chemical regulations.

Read More »

Posted in Chemical regulation, Conflict of interest, Industry influence, Rules/Regulations, TSCA / Tagged , , , , | Authors: / Comments are closed

New Chemicals Rule: EPA must require more info from industry

By Maria J. Doa, PhD, Senior Director, Chemicals Policy, and Greg Schweer, Consultant

NOTE: This is the third in a series about EPA’s regulation of new chemicals. See Time for a New Age for New Chemicals and EPA: Now’s Your Chance to Get Foxes Out of the Henhouse.

Chemical worker in hazmat suit and full-face respirator making new chemicals for industry.

What Happened?

EPA recently proposed regulations to govern how it reviews companies’ pre-manufacture notifications for new chemicals before those chemicals can go on the market.

Why It Matters

Industry often waits until late in the review process to submit information—which means that EPA may spend a significant amount of time and effort to revise its risk assessments to incorporate the new information.

EPA has a major opportunity to improve the New Chemicals Program as it crafts these revised regulations. Requiring industry to provide additional “known or reasonably ascertainable information” as required by the law is an important component of this rule. This should reduce the amount of assessment “rework” the agency currently conducts.

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Posted in Chemical regulation, Industry influence, Risk assessment / Tagged , , , | Authors: / Comments are closed

California mandates toxics testing/disclosure for baby food

Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Safer Chemicals and Katelyn Roedner Sutter, State Director, California

Three jars of baby food surrounded by cut-up vegetables and fruit

What Happened?

On October 10, 2023, California Assembly Bill 899, authored by Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi, became law. It requires manufacturers of baby food (other than infant formula) who wish to sell their products in California to:

  • Test a representative sample of each baby food product for four toxic elements (arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury) at least monthly starting in 2024.
  • Provide the test results to the California Department of Health upon request.
  • Make the results of the testing publicly available on the manufacturer’s website for the shelf life of the product plus one month. That provision goes into effect in 2025.

In addition, as FDA establishes action levels for the four toxic elements, manufacturers must also include a quick response (QR) code on the label that links to the manufacturer’s website, where consumers can find the test results for that toxic element.

Why It Matters

By requiring testing and reporting on these foods, California will provide parents and guardians with important information they need to compare products and make purchasing decisions. The law also:

  • Sets a precedent for greater testing and disclosure of food contaminants; and,
  • Is noteworthy, in that baby food companies did not oppose the bill.

The law will strengthen FDA’s efforts to reduce children’s dietary exposure to those toxic elements to the lowest possible levels, while maintaining access to nutritious foods by filling two critical gaps in FDA’s Closer to Zero program. FDA current approach sets action levels on final products that food companies must meet and requires they use preventive controls to manage toxic elements in their ingredients. It does not require final product testing or disclosure of any testing results.

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Posted in FDA, Food, Health policy, Markets and Retail / Tagged , , , , , | Authors: / Comments are closed

Time for a New Age for New Chemicals

By Maria Doa, PhD, Senior Director, Chemicals Policy, Samantha Liskow, Senior Counsel, and Colin Parts, Legal Fellow

NOTE: This is the first of a series about EPA’s regulation of new chemicals.

What Happened?

EPA recently proposed regulations to govern how it reviews companies’ pre-manufacture notifications for new chemicals before those chemicals can go on the market.

Why It Matters

Unfortunately, as we noted in our comments to EPA [PDF, 721KB], the proposal falls significantly short of implementing the fundamental changes needed to ensure the safety of any new chemicals allowed onto the market.

Read More »

Posted in Chemical regulation, Industry influence, TSCA / Tagged , , , | Authors: / Comments are closed

The LSLR Collaborative’s new guide helps communities design equitable lead service line replacement programs

Guest post from Mason Hines, Mediator with RESOLVE and Facilitator for the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative.  See the original post here.

For over six years, RESOLVE has convened the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative, a joint effort of 28 national public health, water utility, environmental, labor, consumer, housing, and state and local governmental organizations to accelerate full removal of the lead pipes providing drinking water to millions of American homes.

A guiding principle of the LSLR Collaborative is that lead service line (LSL) replacement program should consider and address barriers to participation so that people served by LSLs can benefit equitably, regardless of income, race, or ethnicity. Questions of equity surface at many points in the design of LSL replacement programs, including determining how replacements are funded, how to sequence replacement schedules, and how the program is communicated to community members.

Understanding these are important and complex questions, the LSLR Collaborative recently released a step-by-step guide communities can use to help consider and account for issues of equity when developing LSL replacement programs.  Read More »

Posted in Drinking water, Lead, Public health / Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed