Packaging may contain various chemical substances. When such packaging comes into contact with food, the substances may migrate from the packaging into the food. When the product is consumed, the consumer may ingest the substances in question, which may pose health risks.
It is a known fact that, in practice, certain substances migrate from packaging materials into the foodstuffs. This is not prohibited, but migration must not endanger human health. For various packaging materials and specific chemical substances, the European Commission has drawn up guidelines for food contact materials and regulations for plastics. These lay down requirements and limits for the presence of potentially harmful substances.
Both the producer and the processor/user of packaging materials are therefore responsible for controlling possible food safety hazards. The producer of packaging material is responsible for drawing up a Declaration of Compliance (DoC). This declaration indicates that the packaging material complies with the European directives. The processor/user of packaging materials must check this DoC and ensure that the conditions of use and foodstuffs are in line with the intended use of the packaging material.
The topics of the fact sheets are:
Mineral oils in packaging
Mineral oils are defined as chemical oils, which (often) come from petroleum. There are various ways in which contaminants with mineral oils may end up in foodstuffs. For example, through the use of lubricants on machinery during food production, or through hydraulic oils in harvesting and production machinery.
Another possible source of contamination is food packaging materials. For example, packaging made of recycled paper or cardboard may contain contaminants from mineral oils from newsprint ink. These may migrate from the food packaging material into the foodstuff, possibly posing a risk to consumers.
There is still a lot of uncertainty about the risks of mineral oils and about the requirements which must be met in order to use packaging materials in a food safe way, in order to prevent or minimise migration. The fact sheet Mineral oils in packaging provides an overview of the current situation regarding the risks of mineral oils in food packaging materials. It also discusses relevant legislation.
Bisphenol A in packaging
Coatings used for plastic and metal packaging may contain the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA). Polycarbonate food containers may also contain BPA, which is used to make the containers transparent or more heat-resistant. BPA can pose a risk to public health. However, BPA can be safely used in food contact materials. The fact sheet Bisphenol A in packaging contains background information on the application of BPA in packaging and what requirements it imposes.
Microplastics in packaging
Microplastics may not have a direct relationship with food safety, but they are not entirely unrelated to it either: they can occur in packaging and end up in food. Or they may end up in the environment, when plastic packaging is discarded into nature and breaks down into small particles. Research is still too limited to make any statements about the impact of microplastics in food on human health. For this, more research is needed. The fact sheet Microplastics in packaging provides more information about the origin of microplastics, possible health risks and the latest state of affairs regarding their use in (food) packaging.
Heavy metals in packaging
In the Netherlands, strict requirements apply to foodstuffs to ensure that the risk of excessive intake of heavy metals through food is minimal. But what about packaging materials? The fact sheet Heavy metals in packaging discusses various types of heavy metals, with information about the possible risks of these, examples of incidents and information about European and national legislation.
NIAS in packaging (non-Intentionally added substances)
Food packaging may contain substances which have not been intentionally added and which may pose a risk to food safety. These substances are often referred to as NIAS (non-intentionally added substances). Non-intentionally added substances were included in the European plastic regulation for the first time in 2011. Since then, there has been increasing attention to them. They can end up in food packaging materials in various ways, for example as a contaminant in the raw material or as a result of a reaction during the production process. The fact sheet NIAS in packaging provides background information on the origin, possible risks and applicable legislation of these substances.
Legislation on food contact materials
Food packaging that comes into direct contact with the packaged product is referred to as food contact materials. They must not present a danger to public health. The European Union has drawn up specific legislation for this, which has been translated by the Member States into national legislation and measures. Measures can differ per country. The fact sheet Legislation on food contact materials provides information on the European and Dutch legislation that applies to food packaging materials.
Guidance documents for food packaging materials
In addition to the above series of fact sheets, the KIDV also offers two tools to support producers and importers of packaging and packaged products in assessing their packaging materials. The Suitability assessment for food packaging materials helps to determine whether the material is safe for its intended use and meets the legal requirements. The document Guidance in food packaging materials legislation helps to identify which European legislation applies to a specific material.
KIDV has drawn up the fact sheets and tools in cooperation with Riskplaza. Riskplaza is a database containing information about the food safety of ingredients, as well as measures for controlling food safety hazards. In connection with the launch of these new fact sheets, the Food Safety dossier on this website has been updated.