On October 12, 2017, the agency Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) released an abandonment report for Proposal P1034 on “Chemical Migration from Packaging into Food” (CMPF). In 2014, FSANZ prepared “a proposal to assess the public health and safety risk of chemicals which may migrate from packaging materials into food, and to identify and manage any risks” (FPF reported). Following the assessment and a further public consultation, FSANZ now decided to “abandon the Proposal” with the publication of a final report.

The results of FSANZ’s initial assessment of CMPF risks as well as of “measures used in the packaging supply chain to mitigate CMPF” were summarized in a report published in June 2016 (FPF reported). In essence, the assessment, based on a database of over 1,300 food contact substances, found that “exposures to most chemicals used to produce food packaging are low and unlikely to pose a public health and safety concern.”

Several additional analytical surveys focused on phthalates, mineral oil hydrocarbons, printing inks, and photoinitiators, also found that “estimated dietary exposures to these chemicals are low and not of concern for human health.” For example, New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) carried out a study where 74 packaged and takeaway foods obtained in New Zealand were tested for the transfer of chemicals from packaging into food, focusing on phthalates, printing inks, and photoinitiators. In an article published on October 12, 2017 by the magazine What’s New in Food Technology & Manufacturing, reporter Nichola Murphy informed that, after estimating the associated risks, MPI’s study concluded that “there are no food safety risks with the use of everyday food packaging materials such as plastic and paper.” Thus, summarizing the study’s results, Andrew Pearson from MPI said that “while there were occasional cases where chemicals from food packaging materials transferred onto food, this occurred at low levels and there is no food safety risks for consumers.” He further added that MPI “will continue to monitor any potential risks in this area and ensure that our approach to food safety is in line with current scientific evidence.”

Regarding risk management, FSANZ concluded that “sufficient control measures are in place to control CMPF.” However, some food businesses, especially small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) “showed poor awareness of CMPF and knowledge of suitable control measures.” Therefore, FSANZ proposed “a range of risk management options,” and concluded that “a graduated risk management approach [addressing chemicals with different risk profiles] offered the most advantages in terms of protection of public health and safety and cost effectiveness.”

As a further measure to “improve awareness and knowledge about CMPF,” FSANZ “plans to develop a food packaging information guide to provide a consolidated and comprehensive source of information for industry, address the gaps in awareness and knowledge for SMEs, provide general information on safety issues with CMPF for consumers, and describe the obligations on food businesses (particularly SMEs) to use safe packaging materials.”

Read more

FSANZ (October 12, 2017). “Abandonment report – Proposal P1034: Chemical migration from packaging into food.” (pdf)

Nichola Murphy (October 12, 2017). “MPI concludes food packaging materials are safe.What’s New in Food Technology & Manufacturing

Ruth Hill (October 13, 2017). “Research details packaging chemicals found in food.Radio New Zealand