On October 5, 2017, the Food Packaging Forum held its fifth workshop on “Scientific challenges in the risk assessment of food contact materials.” The afternoon session focused on the safety of food contact materials (FCMs) in a global economy.
James Huang, Director Food Contact Materials Safety at The Coca-Cola Company, U.S., presented ideas on how to improve the risk communication in the supply chain and shared thoughts on packaging safety challenges. He introduced the Project Passport which was developed by the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Packaging Materials Committee of the Plastics Industry Association with the aim to improve communication and compliance issues within the supply chain. In the second part of his presentation, Huang illustrated that different authorities determined a material to be safe by applying different safety parameters (FPF reported). Thus, the systemic incongruence of the assessments led to compliance gaps, which may be perceived as safety gaps and need special attention during risk communication (talk Huang).
Thomas Gude, Deputy Head of Swiss Quality Testing Services (SQTS), Switzerland, explained the role of independent third-party testing labs in enforcing FCM regulation. Currently, many testing labs do not only focus on the analysis of substances from positive lists, but try to cover non-listed substances, oligomers, and non-intentionally added substances (NIAS). For this approach, they require detailed information on the chemical formulation of a product. Gude further commented on the latest developments regarding the regulation of FCMs in the EU, including the role of accredited labs, enforcement, and the lack of harmonization and transparency (talk Gude).
Maricel Maffini, an independent consultant based in Maryland, U.S., reviewed the current U.S. Food Additives regulatory program that should consider cumulative effects of chemically or pharmacologically related substances. Maffini showed the need for post-market safety assessments, because toxicity and exposure data may be amended over time. She gave examples of approved substances that were removed from the list of indirect food additives because the safety standard of reasonable certainty of no harm was no longer met (FPF reported) (talk Maffini).
Ensuring the safety of FCMs in a global economy was the topic of the following podium discussion. The need for transparency and more open communication in the supply chain and between other stakeholders was one of the main issues addressed during this discussion. Although the need to protect certain confidential business information was acknowledged, legal measures were proposed as one option to provide more transparency. Stephen Klump, Head of Packaging Quality and Safety at Nestlé based in Marysville Ohio, U.S., highlighted that communication in the supply chain improved over the past years. The transparency of the current regulatory system was challenged, because data on which risk assessments are based are often not available to the public. Whether chemicals of concern should be actively removed from legal positive lists was questioned during the discussion. On the one hand, it was deemed unnecessary, because well-known chemicals of concern are supposed to be eliminated from most production processes by industry. On the other hand, it was stated that official lists should not contain chemicals of concern, because this would still allow their legal use leading to unnecessary and unwanted exposure. In the end, the speakers concluded that the responsibility for safe food, including safe FCMs, lies with everybody in the supply chain and does not exclude regulatory agencies.