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Food Contact Material Regulations – Europe

The EU has a harmonized legal EU framework, Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004, which sets out the general principles of safety and inertness for food contact materials (FCM), but it is not the whole story.

The EU has a harmonized legal EU framework, Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004, which sets out the general principles of safety and inertness for food contact materials (FCM), but it is not the whole story.

Introduction to European Regulations

Within the EU, FCM are assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) but there is no single regulation covering all FCM. The EU does have a harmonized legal EU framework, Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004, which sets out the general principles of good manufacturing practice (GMP), safety and inertness for FCM, but it is not the whole story. Different forms of FCM and specifc substances are also covered by their own harmonized regulations, for example:

  • Directive 84/500/EEC – Ceramics
  • Directive 93/11/EEC – Release of N-nitrosamines and N-nitrosatable substances from elastomer or rubber teats and soothers
  • Directive 2007/42/EC – Regenerated cellulose film
  • Regulation (EC) 1895/2005 – Restriction of the use of certain epoxy derivatives
  • Regulation (EC) 450/2009 – Active and intelligent materials
  • Regulation (EU) 10/2011 – Plastics
  • Regulation (EU) 2018/213 – Bisphenol A (BPA) in varnishes and coatings
  • Regulation (EU) 2022/1616 – Recycled plastics

Introduction to Council of Europe Resolutions

Despite efforts to further strengthen harmonized regulations on FCM there are many important materials including paper and board, glass, wood, cork, metals and alloys, textiles, adhesives, ion-exchange resins, printing inks, silicones, varnishes and coatings, and wax which do not have specific requirements at the EU level.

The Council of Europe developed some resolutions to close this gap. While the resolutions are not legally binding they are widely accepted as guidance documents in the absence of EU or national legislation by member states. These resolutions cover coatings, silicones, paper and board, cork, glass, metals and alloys, ion-exchange resins, rubber and packaging inks.

Food Contact MaterialCitation
CoatingsResolution ResAP (2004) 1
Cork stoppers and other cork materialsResolution ResAP (2004) 2
GlassGuidelines for Lead Leaching from Glass Tableware
Inks applied to non-food contact surfacesResolution ResAP (2005) 2
Ion exchange and adsorbent resinsResolution ResAP (2004) 3
Metals and alloysResolution CM/ResAP (2013) 9
Paper and boardEQDM Guidelines "Paper and Board"
Plastic colorantsResolution AP (89) 1
Plastic polymerization aidsResolution AP (92) 2
RubberResolution ResAP (2004) 4
SiliconesResolution ResAP (2004) 5
General requirementsResolution CM/Res (2020) 9

Introduction to EU Member State Legislation

At the same time, member states are also free to complement these EU regulations with national legislation, if no EU regulation exists. The reality is that many EU member states have national requirements for one or more of the non-harmonized FCM and/or additional requirements for FCM with harmonized regulations. For example, the EU regulations on ceramics include migration limits for lead and cadmium but, in France these are complemented by legislation administered by the French General Directorate for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF), adding migration limits for aluminum, cobalt and arsenic. Unlike general EU requirements, France also demands the composition of metals being used in FCM – e.g. stainless steel must contain at least 13% chromium.

EU FCM regulations act as a benchmark for member states but they are not always sufficient to guarantee compliance in all European countries. Countries outside of the EU may have their own rules, or may have adopted some aspects of EU regulation, such as in Switzerland. At the same time, member states may also add further restrictions – e.g. Italy’s Decree has an approved list of stainless steels, Denmark's Order on per- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food contact paper and board materials and articles, and the Netherlands' Commodities Act on Packaging and Consumer Articles on a wide variety of FCM and articles.

Without one single harmonized standard for all European countries, manufacturers must ensure their products are compliant with the target market but, since a product will often be marketed in more than one country, this can be a complex matter.

Beyond the EU

In May 2017, Switzerland’s new rules relating to Food Contact Materials (FCM) started to come into effect, highlighting the complexity of European FCM regulations. Its Federal Department of Home Affairs' Ordinance on FCM and articles adopted provisions from several different European Union (EU) regulations, including ceramic migration limits for lead and cadmium from Directive 84/500/EEC for a broader scope of products, and provisions from Regulation (EU) 10/2011, as amended, for food contact plastics. It also has a permitted list of substances for silicone and packaging inks. With no harmonized FCM regulation, how do manufacturers and importers make sure they are compliant in Europe?

On December 31, 2020, the United Kingdom (UK) left the EU. To safeguard continuity at the ‘Withdrawal Date’, the UK passed ‘The Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (UK SI 2019, No. 704) into UK law, to retain EU legislation on FCM and articles and amendments to correct deficiencies in the National Regulations 2012 by reassigning responsibilities that were previously held by EU regulators to UK regulators. Main pieces of food contact legislation:

  • England: the Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2012 (UK SI 2012, No. 2619)
  • Scotland: the Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (SSI 2012, No. 318)
  • Wales: the Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (Wales) Regulations 2012 (WSI 2012, No. 2705 (W. 291))
  • Northern Ireland: the Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (Northern Ireland) Regulations (NISR 2012, No. 384)

From January 1, 2021, the UK has the responsibility to keep its Regulations on FCM and articles up to date. For Northern Ireland, EU rules still apply (Northern Ireland Protocol).

FCM must not alter the food or bring about any deterioration in its organoleptic characteristics. In simple terms, the FCM that touch food must not change it or endanger human health.

Food Contact Material Testing

SGS has the expertise to help manufacturers and suppliers of FCM achieve compliance with markets around the globe. Our technical experts have extensive experience of testing materials and articles for many markets. We offer the full range of FCM testing, including migration tests, along with expert advice on emerging regulations, compliance issues and documentation review. Our experience can ensure your products meet the appropriate territorial regulations for food contact materials and help pave the way for compliance.

Test Your FCM
Our global lab network can support your products' compliance with FCM regulations in your target market.

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