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Overview of National Legislation on Food Contact Materials in EU

By Little Pro on 2017-05-02 Views:  Update:2017-05-06

In EU, Framework Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 sets out general safety requirements for all food contact materials. In addition, specific measures have been introduced to plastics, recycled plastics, regenerated cellulose film, ceramics and active and intelligent materials at EU level. For other types of food contact materials (i.e, coatings, adhesives, and paper) for which there is no specific EU measures, a majority of EU Member States have set their own national provisions on food contact materials and substances. In this article, we will give you a quick introduction to the  national legislation on food contact materials and articles in EU and how to find references. Council of Europe (CoE), Norden, Germany, France, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Belgium are covered.

Note: A majority of info in this article is based on a 329-page JRC report on non-harmonised food contact materials in the EU: Regulatory and market situation (updated in 2017). We only try to make the original report easier to read.

Overview of Material-specific National Regulations

Many Member States (MS), the Council of Europe (CoE) and Norden have set material-specific measures and/or standards for food contact materials for which there is no specific measures at EU level. Those measures or standards usually take the form of lists of authorised substances with restrictions based on migration limits (SML or OML) or compositional limits. The table below summarizes the distribution of countries with measures or national standards specific to the different types of food contact materials (adapted from page 54 of the JRC report). 

Material Positive List SML or OML Substance Quantity in Material (QM)
Adhesives DE, ES, FR, HR, IT, NL ES, HR DE, ES, FR, HR, NL
Cork CoE, CZ, FR, NL, SK CoE, CZ, NL, SK, HR CoE, SK, NL
Glass BE, (IT), SK BE, BG, CH, CoE, CZ, DE, DK, FR, HR, IT, NL, NO, SK FR, (NL)
Ion exchange resins CoE, ES, FR, NL CoE, ES, NL CoE, ES, FR
Metals and alloys CZ, EL, FR, IT, NL, SK AT,(CH), CoE, FR, HR, IT, NL, NO, Norden AT, BE, CH, CoE, CZ, EL, FR, HR, IT, NL, SK
Multimaterials FR, IT, Norden FR, IT FR, IT, Norden
Paper and Board BE, CoE, CZ, DE, (EL), FR, IT, NL, Norden, SK BE, CoE, DE, EE, FR, HR, IT, NL, Norden, PL, SK BE, CoE, DE, EE, FR, HR, IT, NL, Norden, PL, SK
Printing inks CH, CoE, DE_draft, FR, NL, SK CH, CoE, DE, (DE_draft), FR, NL CH, CoE, CZ, FR, (HR), NL, RO, SK
Rubber CoE, CZ, DE, ES, FR, HR, IT, NL, SK AT, CoE, CZ, DE, ES, FR, HR, NL, RO, SK AT, CoE, CZ, DE, ES, FR, HR, IT, NL, SK
Silicones CH, CoE, CZ, DE, ES, FR, HR, IT CH, CoE, CZ, DE, ES, FR, IT CH, CoE, CZ, DE, ES, FR, IT
Varnishes and coatings CoE, CZ, DE, EL, ES, FR, HR, IT, NL, SK BE_draft, CH, CoE, CZ, DE, EL, ES, FR, HR, IT, NL BE_draft, CoE, CZ, DE, EL, ES, FR, IT, NL, SK
Wax DE, ES, (FR), NL ES CH, DE, ES, (FR), NL
Wood FR, NL FR, HR, NL FR

Please note that the CoE or Norden are 2 important inter-governmental organizations in EU. Their introduction is listed as follows:

  • The Council of Europe (CoE), founded in 1949, is a regional intergovernmental organisation of 47 countries. Unlike the European Union, the CoE cannot emit binding laws.
  • Norden represents a Nordic cooperation scheme that involves Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, along with the Faroe Islands, Greenland and the Åland Islands.

Council of Europe Resolutions

The Council of Europe(CoE) has established general recommendations for various types of food contact materials (i.e, coatings and inks). Specific requirements such as positive lists and restriction conditions are set in the Appendixes of the CoE resolutions. They resolutions are not legally binding before they are transferred into national law. To access the full texts of those CoE resolutions, please click the links below. 

The Belgian Scientific Institute for Public Health is managing a database of substances known by the member states of the Council of Europe (CoE) and used in Food Contact Materials (FCM). The CoE FCM database is accessible for public bodies and enterprises on a yearly subscription basis. More info about the database can be found here.

Norden

Norden has published a series of guidelines with requirements on in-house control and the documentation for the assurance of compliance with nordic food contact legislation. To access the full texts of those guidelines, please click the links below. 

Germany

German BfR has issued recommendations on the health assessment of food contact materials since 1958. The BfR Recommendations are not legal norms. However, they do represent the current state of the scientific and technical knowledge for the conditions under which food contact articles made of silicones, paper, and rubber meet the requirements of § 31, para 1, German Food and Feed Code (Lebensmittel-, Bedarfsgegenstände- und Futtermittelgesetzbuch, LFGB) as well as those of Article 3, para 1 a of the Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 in respect to their health safety.

The list of authorized food contact substances are included in various chapters of the BfR recommendations. They can be found in the following database.

German BfR Recommendations Food Contact

It should be noted that the BfR Recommendations only contain those substances for which there are no harmonised EU regulations yet. In the field of plastics, polymer aids such as catalysts and initiators not covered the EU plastics regulation are included. 

France

The French national specific measures concern the following food contact materials:

Other specific measures concerning food contact materials are in force:

More info can be found here.

Italy

In Italy, the national regulation Decreto Ministeriale of 21 March 1973 (latest amendment in 2015) has set detailed requirements on various food contact materials such as plastics, paper, rubber, stainless steel, etc. You may click the following link to dowload the decree and its amendment in Italian.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, Part A of the Dutch Commodities Act Regulation on Packaging and Consumer Articles Coming into Contact with Foodstuffs (latest amendment in 2016) has set a list of authorized substances, restriction limits and other requirements for 12 types of food contact material and articles: plastics, paper & cardboards, rubber, metals, glass & glass ceramics, ceramics & enamels, textiles, regenerated cellulose films, wood & corks, coatings, colorants & pigments and epoxy polymers. 

Spain

In Spain, the national regulation Real Decreto 847/2011 has to be met for various food contact materials like rubber, adhesives, and coatings

Belgium

In Belgium, the main legislation regulating food-contact materials and articles the Royal Decree of 11 May 1992 and its amendment. This law also sets specific requirements for certain food-contact materials such as glass, metal and alloys, paper and board, varnishes and coatings.

Do I Have to Comply with Every National Regulation

After reading so many national food contact regulations in EU, you may wonder do I have to meet the requirements of every national food contact regulation in addition to complying with the EU level legislation in order to sell my product in EU? The answer is no. To understand how this works, you need to know the principles of mutual recognition and safeguard measures.

  • Mutual recognition: In intra-EU trade in goods, a product lawfully marketed in one Member State and not subject to Union harmonisation should be allowed to be marketed in any other Member State, even when the product does not fully comply with the technical rules of the Member State of destination. However, each MS can still pose restrictions or bans at national legislation level should any concern for health or the environment be posed for people / environment in that MS by the use of that product/ substance (i.e, BPA ban). 
  • Safeguard measures: Even for a food contact material or article that is compliant with the EU framework regulation and specific measures at EU level, a Member State can temporarily suspend or restrict that material or article within its territory via national measures(i.e, BPA ban in Denmark and France).

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