The 6th Food Packaging Forum (FPF) workshop on “Predicting the safety of food contact articles: New science and digital opportunities” took place on October 4th, 2018, in Zurich, Switzerland. The afternoon session featured different perspectives on what can be done to ensure the safety of food contact materials (FCMs), offered by representatives of industry, retail, government, and consumer organizations.
Sander Koster, leader of the packaging/FCM analytics and chemistry group at Nestlé, Switzerland, discussed the challenges in the untargeted analysis of mineral oils. Mineral oils are complex mixtures of hydrocarbons difficult to conclusively identify and quantify. Possibly due to this complexity, different laboratories tasked with measuring mineral oil levels in the same sample have reported drastically divergent results. Koster called for “better alignment” and more consistency in the analytical approaches used to measure mineral oils in food and food packaging, especially in the light of the monitoring campaign currently ongoing in Europe (FPF reported).
Sonja Eijpe, project manager at Viaware, the Netherlands, addressed “digital opportunities in supply chain communication.” She presented FOCOS, a software tool developed by Viaware to support risk management and risk communication in the FCM supply chain. She further informed that Viaware has started a collaboration with IBM about using blockchain technology to improve transparency in FCM supply chain communication. Eijpe invited interested participants to contact her about a possibility to get involved in this project.
Kristin Isaacs, research physical scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), presented high-throughput methods used by EPA to estimate exposure to food contact substances (FCSs) (FPF reported). She said that the need to predict the initial concentration of chemicals in products (due to the lack of reported or measured data) imparts “critical uncertainty” to their model. However, the model appears to be “fit for purpose” and has been recently extended to cover more chemicals in need of exposure-based prioritization for a more detailed assessment. During a subsequent panel discussion, Pete Myers from Environmental Health Sciences and Carnegie Mellon University, U.S., commented that the EPA’s approach to prioritizing only those chemicals that surpass a certain predicted exposure threshold is in fact neglecting the possibility of nonmonotonic effects that could be happening below these exposure thresholds (FPF reported).
Pelle Moos, safety and health policy officer at The European Consumer Organization (BEUC), Belgium, informed that, according to a Eurobarometer study carried out in 2017, “84% of Europeans report concerns about chemicals in everyday products.” This proportion has risen dramatically compared to 2014, when only 43% had such concerns. Moos informed that the European Commission (EC) has recently launched an evaluation of the FCM regulation in the EU (FPF reported). He then formulated several recommendations for a “better FCM regime,” calling for delivery of “credible answers to known deficiencies,” such as risk assessment of non-intentionally added substances (NIAS), combination effects, and “emerging risks” like endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and nanomaterials.
Malene Teller Blume, quality manager at Coop Danmark, Denmark, presented a big retailer’s perspective on improving the safety of food packaging. She showed a timeline of bans undertaken by Coop Danmark with regard to hazardous chemicals in products that it sells, starting with a ban of polyvinylchloride (PVC) in all packaging back in 1991. The more recent bans focused on polyfluorinated chemicals (FPF reported) and many other chemicals of concern (FPF reported). The next step could be addressing mineral oils, however, this would be “difficult,” Teller Blume commented. She also presented examples of successful social media campaigns carried out by Coop Danmark, such as a campaign that addressed the ‘cocktail effect’ of hazardous chemicals in consumer products, calling for a ban on polyfluorinated chemicals and bisphenols (FPF reported).