On June 27, 2019, the European Commission’s Expert Working Group (WG) on Food Contact Materials (FCMs) published a summary of discussions regarding the use and placing on the market of “plastic food contact materials and articles containing ground bamboo or other similar constituents.” The discussions follow the observation that a growing number of FCMs and food contact articles are entering the market that are typically made from melamine plastic as the primary structure and have natural additives such as ground bamboo or corn added as a filler.
The WG noted that some of these products are being advertised as “sustainable, recyclable and natural,” including labelling and marketing describing them “as ‘biodegradable,’ ‘eco-friendly,’ ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ or even in some cases ‘100% bamboo,’ which does not reflect the true nature of the product.” The marketing approaches used were criticized in the discussions as not clearly identifying that the products are actually “consisting of plastic.” Business operators were also cautioned to follow EU regulations prohibiting the labeling, advertising or presentation of a product that could mislead consumers. Migration from bamboo-melamine FCMs have triggered a number of notifications within the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) over the past few years, which points to concerns regarding the presence of melamine and formaldehyde in foods from such articles.
“The use of bamboo or other similar constituents as additives in the manufacture of plastic food contact materials and articles, for example to fill or reinforce the plastic, requires an authorization in accordance with Articles 9 – 11 of Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004” and “no such authorization has been given explicitly for bamboo.” The WG clarified that untreated wood flour and fibers (FCM Number 96) have received this authorization, and it is unclear whether or not bamboo is included within this authorization since it is from a grass family. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been requested to clarify this existing authorization.
European Commission (June 27, 2019). “Use of bamboo in plastic FCMs.” (pdf)