The annual “Plastics and paper in contact with foodstuffs” Smithers Pira conference took place on December 4-6, 2017 in Vienna, Austria. Speakers from industry, authorities, consultancies, and non-governmental organizations presented recent developments regarding the regulation of food contact materials (FCMs) in Europe, the U.S., and India.
The first day started with keynote speaker Bernard Hegarty, director of enforcement policy at the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, asking “Who will guard the guards themselves?” (“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”). Hegarty related this question to official controls of FCMs and explained the roles of FCM manufacturers, food industry, Member States (MS), and the European Commission (EC) in providing safe food. Therefore, he referred to the European legislation on official controls to ensure the application of food and feed law (Regulation (EC) No 882/2004, repealed by (EU) 2017/625). In short, industry has to demonstrate the safety of food which shall then be verified by MS. The role of the EC is to control the enforcement activities of MS. Examples of three recent audit reports from Slovakia, Portugal, and Lithuania illustrated how the EC evaluated the existing systems for official controls of FCMs. Finally, Hegarty concluded that weak official controls result in “less evidence of absence of harms from migration” but support “more an absence of evidence.”
Dario Dainelli, senior regulatory advisor at Polymer Comply Europe (PCE), stated that the current legislation does not provide a solution for all types of FCMs. As a reaction, he presented a plastic industry vision for FCM legislation in 2025, under which risks of all FCMs shall be addressed, based on a protocol agreed upon by all stakeholders and a uniform approach applicable for all substances and all FCMs. Since the capacity of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is limited, Dainelli identified the need for recognition of self-assessment by industry. The PCE envisions an introduction of a transparent registry containing, e.g., toxicity data and exposure limits, and allowing for data sharing. Risk assessment authorities shall have the option to review and validate the entries of such a register which shall ideally be based on standardized data. However, the information available in the register shall not replace a declaration of compliance (DoC). Although data generation may be conducted by different stakeholders, industry shall remain liable for the content, Dainelli proposed. In addition, audits by enforcement authorities shall be foreseen.
Jeff Keithline, partner at Keller and Heckman LLP, gave an overview on state and local restrictions for packaging in the U.S.. At first, he introduced the amendment of the warning requirements under California Proposition 65 that became operative on August 30, 2018. It requires businesses to provide warnings about significant exposures to listed chemicals causing cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. Businesses not providing such warnings may run the risk of being sued and having to pay high fines. Keithline summarized further legislations impacting the use of packaging, e.g., the Model Toxics in Packaging Regulation aims at reducing lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium in packaging, whereas the California Rigid Plastic Packaging Container (RPPC) law shall facilitate the reuse and recycling of rigid plastic packaging containers. The RPPC law imposes a general requirement of 25% recycled content for all rigid plastic packaging containers but exempts, amongst others, items containing food.
Antonio Nespoli, Global Quality & Food Safety Governance Director at Barilla, focused on the assessment of equipment and tools coming into contact with food. Measures to improve the compliance of tools and equipment at Barilla include training of purchasing and engineering staff, recruitment of consultants, risk assessment of production lines, and sharing of drafts of declaration of compliance.
On the second day of the conference, Tjoena Siere, Consultant Food Contact Materials and Legislation at AdFoPack, informed about the update of the Dutch Regulation on coatings (FPF reported) and presented test design developed for overall migration testing of acrylic adhesives using olive oil as food simulant. According to the new protocol, the use of reversible pouches provided with two back liners allowed total immersion of the test specimen. Adhering oil was removed by dripping and quick immersion in n-pentane, because blotting would not work for adhesives.
The need for harmonized legislation for materials in contact with drinking water was highlighted by Miguel Angel Prieto Arranz, Food Contacts Additives (FCA) Group Sector Manager at the European Chemical Industry Council. A variety of items which are in contact with drinking water, e.g., pipes, hoses, pumps, taps, valves, are regulated under the Drinking Water Directive 98/83/EC (DWD), which is currently under revision, and the Construction Products Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 (CPR). Many national provisions and certification schemes lead to a fragmentation of the internal market, Arranz explained. To promote EU-wide harmonized provisions for drinking water, a joint industry group representing 30 associations was formed. This group supports the European Parliament plenary position on harmonization of materials and products in contact with drinking water (FPF reported).
Martin Kanert, Executive Manager at the European Printing Ink Association (EuPIA), introduced the Packaging Ink Joint Industry Task Force (PIJITF) that has been established to produce “safely packaged food” and to maintain “high levels of consumer confidence in food safety.” Kanert summarized some documents published by EuPIA to support its members in the risk assessment of printed FCMs. Transparent, defined and well-documented processes as well as audits by authorities shall help to manage risk assessment of substances and compliance work, Kanert stated.
Hervé Simian, Senior Specialist for Packaging Quality & Safety at the Nestlé Research Center, guided the audience through the complex issue of analyzing mineral oils in food. He presented a decision tree developed by Nestlé to help determine whether food is contaminated with mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOHs) or related substances. Difficulties in quantification of MOHs were illustrated by inter-laboratory comparisons that led to non-aligned results (FPF reported).
Ian Schofield, Own Label and Packaging Manager at Iceland Foods, presented the Iceland’s efforts to remove plastics from all their products. The media response that followed the announcement in January 2018 was very positive, Schofield emphasized (FPF reported). Then he went through a list of actions and requirements that need to be addressed to reach this aim by 2023 and finished by discussing some examples of plastic packaging which would be easy (e.g., egg boxes) or difficult (e.g., milk bottles) to replace.
A proposed draft amendment to the Plastics Recycling Regulation (EC) No 282/2008 was covered by Christa Hametner, Senior Expert for Consumer Goods at the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, and Martin Policar, Regulatory Compliance Specialist at PCE. The amendment specifically addresses recycled materials behind a functional barrier as well as chemical recycling. Furthermore, it includes material-specific rules for scrap and offcuts in closed loop processes. Such processes shall not be subject to authorization by the EC but need to be registered and monitored. After a consultation period the draft amendment has been put on hold due to the high number of comments obtained. Both experts also informed that the EC’s authorization decisions for plastic recycling processes that have been assessed by EFSA are expected to be published in the beginning of 2019.
Emma Bradley, Head of the Food Safety and Quality program at Fera Science, gave a historical overview of non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) and summarized the current state of knowledge. The debate on NIAS started in the early 1990s. Since then, advances in analytics, instrumentation and databases allowed steadily improving qualitative and quantitative analyses of NIAS, Bradley stated. Likewise, communication has improved over this period. However, Bradley estimates that prediction of NIAS will never be complete.
A reform of the EU regulations on chemicals in FCMs was addressed by Michael Warhurst, Executive Director at CHEM Trust. In his presentation, he focused on the lack of regular reviews in the FCM legislation, the use of outdated data for risk assessment, the absence of harmonized regulation for many types of FCMs, the missing links between the FCM legislation and the European Chemicals Regulation REACH, as well as insufficient transparency of legislative processes (FPF reported). Warhurst highlighted grouping of chemicals as opportunity to avoid ‘regretful substitutions.’ In view of the European elections in 2019 and the ongoing evaluation of the FCM regulation (FPF reported), “we are at an important moment with a chance to modernize the FCM regulatory system, in line with other EU chemicals and product regulation,” Warhurst concluded.
Michael Warhurst (December 6, 2018). “Reform of the EU regulations on chemicals in food contact materials.” CHEM Trust