In a position statement published on September 21, 2020, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is recommending the enforcement of significantly lower migration limits for heavy metals present in ceramic food contact materials (FCMs) than those currently set by European Commission (EC) Directive 84/500/EEC. The BfR reports that monitoring authorities have consistently found that cadmium, lead, and cobalt can migrate at high levels from ceramic plates, and the agency believes that everyday FCMs should not contribute to consumers’ heavy metal intake. Directive 84/500/EEC entered into force in 1984 and regulates the presence of cadmium and lead in ceramic FCMs in the EU. No limits are set for cobalt. The directive is currently undergoing a revision (FPF reported), and a public consultation has taken place on an inception impact assessment.

Using available toxicological studies, measured ceramic FCMs, and considering current analytical detection limits, the agency has determined maximum recommended migration limits. For category 1 articles, for example, which includes shallow ceramic plates, the BfR recommends setting maximum specific migration limits of 2 μg lead/dm2, 1 μg cadmium/dm2, and 20 μg cobalt/dm2. This value for cadmium is 70 times lower than current limits (0.07 mg/dm2), and the value for lead is 400 times lower (0.8 mg/dm2). The agency is recommending that the final directive revision applies such significantly lower limits, especially when considering ceramic FCMs intended to be used by children. It further recommends that the migration testing conditions set out in the current directive are revised to reflect real-world applications of ceramic FCMs.


BfR (September 21, 2020). “Geschirr aus Keramik: BfR empfiehlt niedrigere Freisetzungsmengen für Blei und Cadmium.” (pdf)

EC (June 2019). “Food safety – heavy metals in ceramic, glass and enameled table and kitchenware.”