On October 6, 2016 the European Parliament (EP) voted with a large majority for the Report on the implementation of the Food Contact Materials Regulation ((EC) No 1935/2004). The report follows a parliamentary hearing on the food contact materials (FCMs) regulation earlier in 2016 (FPF reported), as well as a stakeholder survey conducted by the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) (FPF reported) and a plenary debate held October 5, 2016. In its report, the EP makes a clear statement that “the current paradigm for evaluation of safety of FCMs is insufficient,” stating that the role of FCMs in chemical food contamination is underestimated and that there is a lack of information on human exposure to chemicals from FCMs. During the plenary debate, several members of the EP expressed their concern that consumers were not sufficiently protected from chemicals migrating from FCMs into food, and that there were significant barriers to an efficient functioning of the EU-wide, internal market.

The comprehensive report addresses major gaps in EU legislation and touches on risk assessment, traceability, and enforcement. It calls for harmonized regulation for all FCMs, with a priority given to “paper and board” due to its high market penetrance. Further specific measures on recycled FCMs are suggested for supporting the circular economy. In this context, increased recycling and reuse targets are welcomed but they should “be accompanied by adequate control measures to ensure the safety” of FCMs, and there should be a “phasing-out of substances in FCMs which could pose a threat to human health.” Notably, the report calls for an EU-wide ban of bisphenol A (BPA, CAS 80-05-7) in all types of FCMs.

Non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) are especially mentioned and plans to focus risk assessment on finished articles (e.g. the finished packaging) are welcomed. The EU Commission (EC) is called on to re-evaluate the scientific evidence for several assumptions commonly being used in risk assessments of FCMs. Additional points are made with regard to mixture toxicity, endocrine disruption, antibiotics resistance, developmental exposures, and nanomaterials. Another concern expressed in the report is the insufficient level of enforcement. The report also calls for involvement of all relevant stakeholders in the process of proposing specific safety requirements on FCMs; presently, non-industry public interest groups are excluded from participating.

In conclusion, the EP calls on the EC “to revise the current regulatory framework” to “better achieve its objectives which are to safeguard and protect consumer health and ensure the effective functioning of the internal market.”

Read more

Baptiste Chatain (October 6, 2016). “Health risks of materials in contact with food: tighter EU safety rules needed.”  European Parliament News

ENVI Committee (July 18, 2016). “Report on the implementation of the Food Contact Materials Regulation ((EC) No 1935/2004).” European Parliament

Luke Buxton (October 7, 2016). “MEPs call for ban on BPA in food contact materials.Chemical Watch

Euwid Verpackung (October 21, 2016). “BPA-Verbot des EU-Parlaments in der Kritik.” (in German)

HEAL (October 28, 2016). “EU Parliament sets strong signal on FCMs.