On April 19-20, 2018, the European Plastic Converters Association (EuPC), together with Polymer Comply Europe (PCE), held the 2018 edition of their Food Contact Plastics Seminar (FPF reported). The seminar took place in Brussels, Belgium, and was entitled “Ensuring safety of products: Focus on retailers and consumers.” The program featured four thematic sessions with speakers from industry associations, food and packaging companies, research organizations and consultancies, and the European Commission (EC).

Silvia Freni Sterrantino from EuPC addressed the implications of the EC’s plastics strategy (FPF reported) for food contact materials. She informed that the measure on single-used plastics, as foreseen by the plastics strategy, will include i) improvement of collection schemes for certain items (e.g., bottles), ii) promotion of biodegradable solutions, and iii) charges or levies on certain items (e.g., carrier bags). The measure might be a directive, potentially leading to different interpretation across EU Member States (MS). Therefore, an EU regulation could be an alternative, preparation of which might need more time however. The measure is due by May 2018 (FPF reported).

Patrick De Kort from PCE clarified that the REACH restriction on microplastics only focuses on intentionally added microplastics and accidental release of plastic nurdles or pellets lies outside of the scope of the restriction. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is currently preparing a restriction proposal for microplastics – a measure that is also foreseen by the EC’s plastics strategy (FPF reported). The proposal will be finalized by January 2019 and possibly adopted by June 2020 after revision.

Christian Kirchnawy from the Austrian Research Institute for Chemistry and Technology (OFI) presented its ongoing MigraTox project which focuses on the use of in vitro bioassays for the safety assessment of non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) in food packaging (FPF reported). OFI is currently developing bioassays fit for this purpose, working on sensitivity of single tests (e.g., for genotoxicity), sample preparation (e.g., avoiding false positives and false negatives), validation (e.g., influence of sample matrix), and standardization (e.g., generally agreed protocol). Kirchnawy further noted that bioassays can also be used for the ‘safety by design’ approach, where material samples with the least activity are chosen. However, just because the migrate of a material tests positive in a bioassay does not mean that it is dangerous, he insisted. The bioassay only gives an indication of potential risk and unnecessary panic should be avoided.

Rachida Semail from law firm Keller and Heckman LLP compared the Chinese food contact legislation (FPF reported) to EU legislation and explained its requirements for EU converters. Overall, the two legislations have many similarities, however the Chinese standards are more detailed than the EU regulations. EU converters should determine case-by-case whether compliance with EU regulations is sufficient to comply with Chinese standards. The converters are obliged to do all the compliance work according to Chinese standards but not necessarily in Chinese laboratories.

Bastiaan Schupp and Jonathan Briggs from the EC’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) gave an update on the EC’s activities concerning EU food contact materials (FCMs) legislation. The EC is currently working on a technical guidance for compliance testing of plastic FCMs (expected soon), a new ceramic directive (FPF reported), and approval of new substances under the plastics regulation (EU) No 10/2011. Briggs informed about the ex-post evaluation of the FCM framework regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 (FPF reported). The study to support the evaluation and to be done by an external contractor will start after the summer of 2018 and take one year. Stakeholders will be consulted in the data collection phase of the study, involving two workshops for all stakeholders and a twelve-week public consultation. After the study, a staff working document, communicating the results and conclusions of the evaluation to policy makers and stakeholders, will be published. Briggs noted that more information and a timeline of the evaluation will be published on DG SANTE’s website. Schupp informed that authorization decisions on more than 140 plastic recycling processes (mostly polyethylene terephthalate (PET)) are due in 2018. The decisions will be based on the scientific opinions by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The EC considers obliging recyclers to monitor incidental contaminants in recycled plastics. Future focus will lie on recycling of non-PET plastics, namely polyolefins, as they represent the biggest part of the market. The EC will also look into standardization of waste streams to create a standard for ‘food grade waste.’ Lastly, Schupp noted that the EU measure on printed FCMs is currently on hold awaiting ‘political validation.’

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DG SANTE (May 2, 2018). “Plenary meetings.