The 2016 “Plastics & Paper in contact with foodstuffs” Smithers Pira conference took place on December 7-9, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. The conference presented newest developments from the fields of food contact plastic and paper, also covering select non-harmonized materials such as printing inks and adhesives. An overview of regulatory updates in the EU (FPF reported) and globally the U.S. also was provided.

Edward Kosior, Managing Director, Nextek Ltd presented the latest research aimed at developing fluorescent markers to facilitate sorting of food-grade materials from non-food grade materials in recycling streams. The food contact compliance of the new materials with incorporated fluorescent markers is currently being investigated. During the recycling process, the fluorescent markers can be removed completely.

Jane Muncke, Managing Director, Food Packaging Forum Foundation, spoke about bioplastics for food contact. She stated that they are not a solution to the increasing plastic pollution. However, bioplastics can be considered a cornerstone of the circular economy with a focus on recycled plastics that are made from renewable resources like organic waste. Like conventional plastics, bioplastics need to be evaluated carefully to ensure their chemical safety, and current approaches for chemical risk assessment can be improved based on contemporary scientific understanding.

Roland Franz of the research institute Fraunhofer IVV presented work on the migration of oligomers from food contact polymers. Oligomers are legally not clearly defined in EU regulation, as they are not always considered non-intentionally added substances (NIAS). Mr. Franz pointed out that oligomers are specific to a particular polymer production process, proposing they are evaluated as polymer-related substances. He defined two classes of oligomers: one containing those oligomers that lost the monomer’s functionality (and hence may require a de novo hazard and risk evaluation), and another one including those oligomers that still “latently” contain the functionality of their monomers (and hence can be evaluated using the knowledge available for monomers).

Dario Danielli, Director Analytical & Regulatory Affairs, SealedAir presented a suggestion for a new approach to the legislation of FCMs and food contact articles (FCAs). Discussing the EFSA Scientific Opinion on risk assessment of FCMs, published in January 2016 (FPF reported), Mr Danielli suggested that this document is a “door open for a new regulatory approach to FCM.” He called for all FCMs and FCAs, plastic and non-plastic alike, to be covered by a single regulatory measure. In his view, this measure should be based on exposure, and risk assessment should be used as the main approach to address safety concerns of FCM components, both intentionally added substances (IAS) as well as NIAS.

Peter Oldring, Regulatory Affairs Manager, Valspar presented an update on FACET (Flavourings, Additives, food Contaminants Exposure Tool) (FPF reported). He emphasized that FACET models migration into food, not food simulants, therefore FACET results should not be compared to those of conventional migration models which tend to overestimate the migration values. A new FACET software tool will be made available for free download on the JRC website.

Marta Lara, Head of Regulatory Affairs FCMs, ITENE presented her company’s work on developing and registering nanocomposite FCM comprised of a polylactic acid polymer reinforced by nanoclay.

Paul Earnshaw, Packaging Manager, Tesco illustrated the different perspectives on the packaging safety taken by the different stakeholders, including the regulatory specialists, development managers, packaging managers and marketing managers, as well as the consumers. He concluded that open communication between the retailer and its suppliers is crucial.

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Smithers Pira (2016). “About Plastics & Paper in contact with foodstuffs.