On October 29–30, 2019, the International Food Contact Materials Safety Symposium was held in Guangzhou, China. The event was organized by Guangzhou Customs District Technology Center, IQTC National Reference Laboratory for Food Contact Materials, together with the Expert Committee of Food Contact Material of the China Food Industry Association and the Association of International Chemical Manufacturers. Over 400 participants followed presentations from 24 international food contact material (FCM) experts.
The talks included updates on regulatory developments in China, Japan, the United States (US) and the European Union (EU). Lei Zhu of the Chinese Food Safety Authority (CFSA) told the audience about ongoing efforts to revise existing or develop new FCM regulation, including for adhesives and printing inks (FPF reported). Bastiaan Schupp and Jonathan Briggs of the European Commission spoke about the efforts to regulate epoxysilanes due to their potential genotoxicity (FPF reported). From the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Paul Honigfort informed about FDA’s update of chemistry requirements planned for 2020 to include migration into dry foods. Junichi Kidoh from the Japanese Ministry of Health shared news on the update of the Japanese Food Sanitation Act announced in June 2019, and said that publication of the new regulation’s positive list is expected in December 2019 (FPF reported). Kidoh stated that the new rule includes a human health threshold of 0.01 ppm for chemicals migrating into food that are not subject to a specific migration limit (SML).
Other talks focused on risk assessment efforts in various countries. Haixia Sui from the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA) described ongoing work on a database for assessing exposure, with a particular focus on the surface-to-volume ratio (S/V) of food contact article (FCA) to food, where actual exposure was being assessed and compared to the current standard assumption for S/V of 6 dm2 FCA/kg food (identical to Europe). Germany is working on an update to its recommendation XXXVI for paper and board FCAs, according to Stefan Merkel of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). Specifically, the SML for bisphenol A (CAS 80-05-7) in paperboard made from recycled materials will be lowered to 0.05 mg/kg food, to mirror the current SML in the European Plastics Regulation (EU 10/2011) and a special measure for varnishes and coatings (Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/213). Claudia Roncancio Peña of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) shared that EFSA currently is working on a prioritization of those substances authorized for food contact plastics in Europe that have no SML (FPF reported). Further, a webinar will be held on 14 November 2019 about EFSA’s ongoing work on BPA (FPF reported).
Another issue addressed at the symposium was environmental performance of food packaging (FPF reported). Emma Bradley of Fera, a UK consultancy, reported about a recent study commissioned by the UK government on biobased FCAs and noted that half of the EU Rapid Alerts for Food Safety incompliance (RASFF) for melamine FCAs were found for products made with bamboo; specifically, non-compliant bamboo tableware was found to have SML-exceeding melamine migration (FPF reported). Terry Collins of Carnegie-Mellon University spoke about low-dose adverse effects of synthetic chemicals and called for improved and extended testing of chemicals authorized for use in FCAs, since endocrine disrupters are implicated in the dramatic sperm count declines observed in countries in North America, Europe and Asia (FPF reported). Microplastics was the topic of two talks given by Thomas Gude of Swiss Quality Testing Service (SQTS) and Bradley Clarke of Melbourne University. Both stated that microplastics are of growing concern due to their ubiquity and the transfer of chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants (POPs) into the food chain and humans (FPF reported).
A recurring issue discussed throughout the symposium was the use of recycled material in FCAs (FPF reported). Several talks were dedicated to specific aspects related to dealing with chemicals that could be present in recycled materials but without risk assessment for food contact use (FPF reported). Honigfort (FDA) also spoke about a study FDA had conducted on brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in plastic food contact articles (FCAs) sold on the US market, both from domestic and international production. In this study, BFRs were found in imported FCAs made of black plastics, mirroring previous such reports from the EU (FPF reported). The Food Packaging Forum has published a peer-reviewed article on the chemical safety aspects of recycled food packaging (FPF reported).