In an article published on July 5, 2016 in the peer-reviewed journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, Melissa Van Bossuyt and colleagues from the Scientific Institute of Public Health, Brussels, Belgium, report on the establishment of an inventory list of chemicals used in printed paper and board food contact materials (FCMs), and evaluation of migration and toxicity properties of some of the included substances.

Printed paper and board are the second most commonly used FCMs in Europe, superseded only by plastics. Currently, no harmonized European Union (EU) regulation exists for this type of FCMs. To create an inventory of all substances that may be used in printed paper and board FCMs, the scientists compiled information from Annex 6 of the Swiss Ordinance on Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (Annex 6 lists substances authorized for the use in  inks for FCMs), the Resolution of the Council of Europe on paper and board materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs (additives that may be used in the manufacture of paper and board FCMs), the paper and board section of the EFSA Scientific Cooperation Working Group report on non-plastic FCMs (ESCO report 2011 on paper and board substances compiled from national FCM legislations), and the Union list of substances authorized for plastic FCM applications ((EC) No 10/2011).

With duplicates removed, the final inventory contains 6,073 unique substances. Of these, 2,546 (42%) are single substances, 1,189 (20%) polymers, 1,100 (18%) mixtures, and 1,238 (20%) other compounds, such as metal complexes and inorganic substances; the majority of substances (77% or 4,690 substances) have not been evaluated for their toxicity, with 3,565 of these non-evaluated substances being authorized for printing inks in Switzerland. The evaluation status was further examined for the single substances, and it was found that 1,769 (69%) are non-evaluated. Based on select physicochemical properties, it was estimated that most of the non-evaluated single substances have the potential to migrate into food (1,721), and may also become bioavailable following oral intake (1,131). 1,095 of these 1,131 compounds are included in the Flavourings, Additives, and food Contact materials Exposure Tool (FACET) database, confirming their actual or potential use in primary food packaging.

613 of these 1,095 substances are registered under REACH, and up to 59 of these are found in the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) Community Rolling Action Plan (CoRAP) list, which contains substances that have been, or will be, evaluated by a Member State of the EU. In addition, 18 of the registered substances are present in the Candidate List of substances of very high concern (SVHCs; see Table 1), mainly for toxic effects on reproduction, and carcinogenicity. Two of these 18 substances, bis(4-aminopheno)methane and bis(2-methoxethyl)ether, are included in Annex XIV (intended for phase-out) due to their toxic effects on reproduction. An additional substance, diethyleneglycol methyl ether (CAS 111-7-3), used as a solvent in printing inks, is placed in Annex XVII and has been restricted since June 2010.

Table 1: Substances of very high concern (SVHCs) used in the manufacture of printed and non-printed paper and board FCMs, with potential to migrate and to be bioavailable based on their physicochemical properties (compilation according to van Bossuyt et al. 2016).


Chemical nameCAS number
Bis(2-methoxyethyl) ether111-96-6
Solvent Blue 46786-83-0
Ethyleneglycol dimethyl ether110-71-4
Triethyleneglycol dimethyl ether112-49-2
1,2-Cyclohexanedicarboxylic anhydride85-42-7
1,2-Cyclohexanedicarboxylic methylanhydride25550-51-0

Due to potential adverse effects on human health, the authors call for an urgent investigation of the actual use of the identified substances of concern in paper and board FCMs.


Van Bossuyt, M. et al. (2016). “Printed paper and board food contact materials as a potential source of food contamination.Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 81: 10-19.