Food Contact Materials : the Problems with the EU Laws

Chemicals in food contact materials: a gap in the internal market, a failure in public protection

Food Contact Materials – food packaging, factory equipment, food utensils – almost everything we eat has been in contact with one or more of these items. The EU’s laws should ensure that chemicals used in these materials are safe, but they do not go far enough and contain holes.

CHEM Trust Policy BriefingChemicals in food contact materials: A gap in the internal market, a failure in public protection“, first published on 26th January 2016, outlines the key problems, and proposes some solutions.

European Parliament study and draft MEP report confirm problems with EU laws on food contact chemicals, chemtrust, MAY 12, 2016.

The debate on the regulation of chemicals in food contact materials is starting to heat up, with a new studyFood Contact Materials Regulation (EC) 1935/2004″ from the European Parliament’s Research Service (EPRS) echoing many of the criticisms that CHEM Trust made.

Abstract

Food contact materials (FCMs) are widely used in everyday life in the form of food packaging, kitchen utensils, tableware, etc. When put in contact with food, the different materials may behave differently and transfer their constituents to the food. Thus, if ingested in large quantities, FCM chemicals might endanger human health, or change the food itself. Therefore, food contact materials are subject to legally binding rules at EU level, currently laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 which aims at ensuring FCM safety but also the effective functioning of the internal market in FCM goods.

The regulation sets up a general safety requirement applicable to all possible food contact materials and articles, and envisages a possibility for the adoption of specific safety requirements (i.e. further harmonisation at EU level) for seventeen FCMs listed in Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004. So far, specific safety requirements have been adopted only for four FCMs: plastics (including recycled plastics), ceramics, regenerated cellulose and so-called active and intelligent materials. Where specific requirements have not been adopted at EU level, Member States could adopt such measures at national level, which is the case for several widely used FCMs, such as: paper & board, metals & alloys, glass, coatings, silicones, rubbers, printing inks etc.

However, as reported by the majority of stakeholders participating in this survey, the lack of specific measures at EU level for some food contact materials/articles negatively impacts the functioning of the internal market for the relevant material/article and its food safety. Stakeholders – across businesses, consumers, environmental and health NGOs, researchers, as well as Member States’ competent authorities – are in favour of specific measures at EU level for the FCMs that are not yet harmonised at EU level.

Read and download the whole report Food Contact Materials – Regulation (EC) 1935/2004, European Implementation Assessment Study, May 2016.

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