In an article published on December 22, 2015 by the news blog Health & Environment (H&E), journalist Paul Whaley reports on the current situation regarding the regulation of food contact materials (FCMs) in the EU. First, Whaley notes that FCMs are regulated outside the European regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) and that several types of FCMs, e.g. glass, metals and alloys, paper and board, printing inks, are currently not covered by specific EU-wide regulation.

The consequences of these regulatory gaps are that potentially hazardous substances are being used in FCMs, Whaley explains. As examples he cites a study published by the Food Packaging Forum (FPF) in 2014 showing that substances of very high concern (SVHCs) are legally used in the production of FCMs in Europe (FPF reported). Further, Whaley refers to test results from the Danish Consumer Council finding fluorocarbons and other chemicals of concern (COCs) in pizza boxes (FPF reported), as well as to a study commissioned by the non-profit organization Food Watch showing contamination of dry foods packaged in (recycled) paper and board with mineral oils (FPF reported). In addition to the need for regulating known COCs in FCMs, Whaley recognizes the challenge of managing non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) because their chemical structures are often unknown.

While industry is calling for further harmonization of FCM regulation at EU-level, the European Commission (EC) wants to build on mutual recognition of divergent rules in Member States to close regulatory gaps and strengthen the single market, Whaley writes. This reflects the conclusions of the EU Presidency conference on FCMs held on September 30, 2015 in Luxembourg (FPF reported). The EC’s Joint Research Center (JRC) is currently assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of existing EU FCM regulations (FPF reported), and the European Parliament (EP) has launched its own investigation on the implementation of EU FCM regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 (FPF reported). Further, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently held a public consultation on a draft opinion on the safety assessment of FCMs (FPF reported), to which the non-profit organization CHEM Trust and the Food Packaging Forum submitted comments (FPF reported).

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Paul Whaley (December 22, 2015). “Is food packaging a blind spot in chemical regulation?Health & Environment