On May 14-16, 2019, the food packaging consultancy Smithers Pira hosted the Global Food Contact 2019 conference in Lisbon, Portugal. This year’s conference included an additional workshop on non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) and included speakers from the packaging and labeling industry, regulatory and enforcement agencies, consultancies, and law firms.

During a pre-conference workshop, speakers introduced current testing approaches for NIAS, including a series of miniaturized Ames tests developed by testing consultancy OFI. The main conference included presentations summarizing recent developments and potential changes to food contact regulations, with focuses on the EU, U.S., China, Japan, India, and Latin America. A presentation by Alistair Irvine from Smithers Pira highlighted the recent amendments over the past 15 months to the European food contact plastics regulation EU No. 10/2011 (FPF reported). Presentations by packaging producer Ball Packaging Europe, coatings manufacturer Sherwin Williams, and paper industry association CEPI discussed the challenges posed by food contact materials without harmonized legislation across EU member states, including support from a new industry guideline developed for paper and board packaging (FPF reported).

As a food contact material, paper and board were a focus of multiple presentations. Caroline Locre from the applied research center and consultancy Centre Technique Du Papier presented experimental results highlighting large differences that can occur in migration testing of paper and board packaging depending on the food simulant used. Katja Tuomola from paperboard manufacturer Metsä Board discussed the company’s latest product developments, including a paperboard packaging material with a water, oil, and grease resistant barrier coating made without the use of plastic or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and having a life cycle assessment claiming a six-fold reduction in climate impacts compared to a plastic packaging alternative.

The issue of communication and data transfer along the supply chain was brought up as a challenge by many presenters and participants. John Van Bruschem from adhesive and label manufacturer Avery Dennison presented his company’s approach to surveying suppliers and providing their customers with access to an automated and secure online database offering compliance information.

A summary of recent and expected developments in food contact regulations in Asia highlight an increasing pace in implementation of new laws and enforcement policies. Xiaolu Wang from compliance consultancy Verisk 3E presented statistics on compliance inspections in China for both imported and domestically produced food contact materials and articles, including a recent government notice announcing targeted inspection of food contact paper through October 2019. Developments in Japan’s regulations were outlined by Rudd Overbeek of compliance consultancy Decernis who explained the ongoing development of a positive list for additives used in plastic FCMs as well as for low-level monomers (those with <2% presence) in food contact polymers. The Japanese authorities have invited industry to review the draft lists and submit chemical information. Monika Rawat from Zydus Wellness Limited explained that India’s regulations center around a set of national standards and default to international standards when needed. Compared to 2011, today’s food contact regulations in India were described as being much more structured and expansive in scope.

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Smithers Pira (May 2019). “Global Food Contact 2019.