On December 18, 2020, the European Association for the Coordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation (ANEC) announced the publication of a position paper reflecting on the current EU regulatory framework for food contact materials (FCMs) and proposing changes. The association argues that it has long been known that the current EU legal framework governing the safety of FCMs “is deficient and puts consumers at risk.” It points to the European Commission (EC) for doing too little over the years to address known issues, including (i) the lack of harmonization across materials other than plastics, (ii) failing to revise outdated heavy metal limits for ceramics, and (iii) implementing incomplete rules for printing inks.
ANEC writes that it believes “that the prevailing system of industry self-control in the field of food contact materials has failed and must be much reduced, whilst assessments by national authorities and [the European Food Safety Authority] EFSA – independent of industry – must be considerably reinforced.” It challenges the notion of private certification bodies being seen as independent, arguing that they “operate in highly competitive markets, and their commercial interests will always be in a permanent state of tension with their presumed impartiality.” It further criticizes the current widespread use of a ‘post-market’ surveillance system reliant on completing risk assessments from multiple actors (both private and governmental).
Instead, the consumer organization details an alternative approach in the position paper based on a set of principles. These principles include:
- Significantly reducing the number of substances and materials used within FCMs
- Eliminating substances of concern in all types of FCMs based on their intrinsic properties or on a case-by-case basis (e.g. for endocrine disruptors)
- Requiring pre-market authorization for all substances and materials, including for non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) in final materials
- Establishing an expiry date for all approved authorizations
- Establishing systematic controlling of all authorizations, e.g. through internal quality checks and external product control by an accredited inspection body
- Requiring manufacturers to pay for authorizations, renewals, and market surveillance through a fee system
- Ensuring that any REACH chemical authorizations are only granted to individual applicants and for a specific use over a limited period of time. The current practice allowing anyone to use an authorized substance should be stopped.
The ANEC position paper was published on the same day as the inception impact assessment for revision of EU legislation of FCMs by the European Commission’s (EC) Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) (FPF reported). The assessment is undergoing public consultation, and comments are being accepted until January 29, 2021.
Kathryn Carlson (January 7, 2021). “EU NGO calls on industry to pay FCM authorization fees.” Chemical Watch
ANEC (December 18, 2020). “ANEC reflections on the basic directions for the future development of the EU legislative framework on Food Contact Material (FCM).” (pdf)