In a series of recent announcements, various regulatory and consumer authorities from different East Asian nations have updated guidelines and reported on compliance for a range of food contact materials.
South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) published its annual white paper on September 14, 2021. The white paper serves as “guidance to follow MFDS’s policies and implementations on food and drug safety over the past year.” MFDS hopes it will “help to broaden understanding of policies on food and drug safety and to contribute to the development of the food and drug industry.” In the section of the report discussing utensils, containers, and packaging, MFDS writes of their intention to “develop and review the guidelines on the use of recycled synthetic resin… to further promote recycling. [MFDS] will also reassess eight materials including glass to evaluate the appropriateness of the current standards and specifications for utensils, containers, and packaging for foods.”
The South Korean ministry has already begun the work of updating specifications around the use of recycled plastics in food contact. On September 7, 2021, a few days before the publication of their white paper, MFDS released their updated standards and specifications of utensils, containers, and packaging, which clarifies that recycled PET is permitted to be used as the source material for such products and includes the usage standards.
On September 18, 2021, news provider ChemLinked reported that the National Health Commission of China released updated guidelines for testing the overall migration of substances from food contact materials and articles. Beginning in March 2022, the precision demanded for the independent measurement of overall migration will increase. According to ChemLinked, China currently requires that the absolute difference between independent migration measurements “shall not exceed 20% of the arithmetic mean value,” but with the new guidelines the difference should not exceed 10%.
On September 15, 2021, the newspaper Focus Taiwan reported the Taiwanese Food and Drug Administration will add food-grade nitrogen to its food additive standards which will “allow the substance to be controlled under the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation.” To monitor how manufacturers use nitrogen, the FDA is mandating that anyone “who produces, imports, sells or uses nitrogen for food packaging will have to obtain prior approval from local governments and submit relevant information on their use on a monthly basis,” beginning in 2023. Nitrogen gas lengthens the shelf life of packaged foods.
Hong Kong’s Consumer Council, an independent authority responsible for improving consumer welfare, found that many silicone food containers sold in Hong Kong exceed safety limits on volatile organic matter content. The consumer council tested nine silicone food containers and 5 silicone cups. According to reporting by the South China Morning Post, “The Consumer Council [found] that six brands of silicone food containers and three types of such cups exceeded the German standard for volatile organic matter of 0.5 percent, ranging from 0.76 to 1.4 percent.”
South Korea MFDS (September 2021). “2021 Food and Drug Safety White Paper.”
South Korea MFDS (September 7, 2021). “Standards and Specifications for Utensils, Containers, and Packaging.” (in Korean)
Chiang Hui-chun and Teng Pei-ju (September 15, 2021). “Taiwan to tighten rules on use of nitrogen in food packaging from 2023.” Focus Taiwan
Sammy Heung (September 15, 2021). “Hong Kong consumer watchdog urges regulation of chemical levels in silicone products after study finds prolonged use may affect liver health.” South China Morning Post
Jerry Wang (September 18, 2021). “China Unveils 17 GB Standards and 1 Amendment, with Food Contact Materials and Articles Involved.” ChemLinked
Lorraine T.S. Li. (September 13, 2021). “South Korea Revises the Food Packaging Material Requirements.” ChemLinked