EU Compliance for Food Packaging Regulations
Food packaging carries out several essential tasks, including protecting food against contamination or damage and providing consumers with important information about the package’s contents. Advanced food packaging materials are microwaveable, reducing browning or other signs of aging, extend shelf life, and can even monitor the condition of the food inside. Unfortunately, some packaging may not be suitable for food as they can transfer unhealthy or even dangerous substances to the consumer. Like other nations intending to protect consumers, the European Union (EU) has enacted regulations guiding the food packaging industry.
The EU broadly defines foods packaging materials under the umbrella term “food contact materials,” which also includes other materials or machinery, such as coffee machines or food processers, that may come into contact with food under normal conditions.
EU’s Framework Regulation
Companies that supply food contact materials and food packaging must comply with EU’s food contact regulations. Several regulations control food packaging in the EU, but two regulations stand out: Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004 and Regulations (EC) No. 2023/2006 on GMP.
Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004
Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004 requires materials that do not release harmful levels of their constituents into foods. The regulation requires materials that do not change the taste, odor or composition of food in an unacceptable way. It also requires that businesses involved in food packaging must establish a system that traces food contact materials (FCMs) at every step from production to distribution.
The regulation allows the EU to set specific measures pertaining to certain types of materials, such as plastics; following adoption of such measures, manufacturers using those materials must submit a written Declaration of Compliance (DoC). In the DoC, businesses must say that they comply with all applicable regulations, and provide supporting documentation and traceability through labeling and supply chain records.
The EU has already set several measures covering a number of materials. Companies using these materials for food packaging must file a DoC. These measures and materials include:
- Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 on plastic materials
- Regulation (EC) No 282/2008 on recycled plastic materials
- Regulation (EC) No 450/2009 on active and intelligent materials
- Directive 84/500/EEC for ceramics
- Directive 2007/42/EC for regenerated cellulose film
EU Member States may set their own national provisions for materials, such as coatings, adhesives, and paper, when the EU has not.
The regulation also requires labeling for materials and articles that are not yet in contact with food when introduced to the market. Labeling should bear the words “For food contact,” the glass/fork symbol, or other indication that the product meets guidelines for contact with food.
Regulation (EC) No. 2023/2006 on GMP
Ensuring that the food consumers receive is safe to eat is a complex undertaking – retailers must be confident that the food and food packaging supply line is compliant with safety regulations. Good manufacturing practice guidelines (GMP) are a quality assurance tool that assures retailers and consumers that their food’s packaging is safe.
Regulation (EC) No. 2023/2006 on GMP says that manufacturers must create food contact materials (FCMs) in compliance with good manufacturing practice guidelines. The regulation ensures that the specifications for these materials conform to legislation. Specifically, the business’s premises must be fit for food packaging and staff must be knowledgeable about critical stages in production.
Companies must document quality assurance and quality control systems they maintain on the premises; documentation must provide traceable information to support compliance claims. Documentation must include information about material compositions Declarations of Conformity, test reports, and operative documents.
To prove compliance with EU’s food packaging regulations, many companies turn to testing, inspection and certification laboratories. Eurofins Consumer Product Testing can assess a product’s need for testing, provide customized services and technology, and help companies who use food packaging comply with EU’s regulation. Downloadable PDF.
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