Several EU Member States Announce the Prohibition of Food Contact Bamboo-Melamine Plastics

SAFEGUARDS | Consumer ProductsNO. 030/21

 SG 03021 Bamboo Bowl

In 2020, the Expert Working Group on Food Contact Materials (FCM) published a note on the use and placing on the market of food contact plastic materials and articles containing ground bamboo (‘bamboo-melamine’) or other similar constituents. 

As discussed in the note, there has been an increase in the number of food contact materials and articles being placed on the market that are manufactured from plastics containing bamboo and/or other ‘natural’ substances. Common examples of these are kitchenware and tableware such as bowls and plates for repeated use, and coffee beakers (’to go cups’). The note concludes that ground bamboo, bamboo flour, and many similar substances such as corn are not in the Union List of Authorized Substances (Union List) in Annex I to Regulation (EU) 10/2011 (Food Contact Plastics Regulation, consolidated version to September 2020). Food contact plastics containing these unauthorized additives are not in compliance with the compositional requirements of the Food Contact Plastics Regulation.

According to the Food Contact Plastics Regulation, an authorization has been given for ‘wood flour and fibers, untreated’ (FCM No 96) and ‘sunflower seed hulls’ (FCM no. 1060).  

In February, 2021, a joint letter from the authorities of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (Benelux countries) notified business operators to withdraw food contact ‘bamboo-melamine’ plastics from the EU market immediately. 

According to that announcement, the use of bamboo (or other natural constituents) in combination with polymers, such as melamine (‘bamboo-melamine’) for the manufacture of food contact plastics is not explicitly authorized under article 5 ‘Union List’ in the Food Contact Plastics Regulation. Additionally, the specific migration values for melamine and formaldehyde on these products have often been found to be substantially higher than those permitted in the Food Contact Plastics Regulation. 

Importers who wish to place food contact ‘bamboo-melamine’ plastics on the EU market are obliged to submit an authorization dossier according to Regulation (EC) 1935/2004 (Food Contact Framework Regulation, consolidated version to August 2009). Further information on food contact material applications and the authorization process can be found in the European Commission and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) websites.
  
The Benelux authorities will take enforcement actions from the second quarter of 2021 and will pursue infringement actions for non-compliance. 

In addition to the joint letter from the Benelux countries, several EU Member State authorities have issued similar announcements/concerns on the use of food contact plastics containing natural materials such as bamboo and/or other plant materials that are not in the Union List of the Food Contact Plastics Regulation. These include, but may not be limited to, the following EU member state authorities:

  • The Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto) prohibits the importation of food contact plastic materials containing bamboo fiber or unauthorized vegetable fibers and such products already on the market must be withdrawn from sale
  • The Irish Food Safety Authority prohibits food contact plastics containing unauthorized additives derived from bamboo
  • The Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (Agencia Española de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición, AESAN) emphasizes that food contact plastics containing substances such as bamboo fibers that are not authorized under the Food Contact Plastics Regulation are not permitted on the EU market and urges economic operators to remove such products. Operators who wish to market such products are advised to submit a request to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for the relevant assessment

Additionally, there were several 2020 notifications in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed portal (RASFF portal) on border rejections from Austria as the notifying country for cups and tableware made from a mix of bamboo fibers, melamine and maize.

SGS technical experts have extensive knowledge and testing experience in materials and articles in contact with food. They work to ensure that your products meet the appropriate regulations for food contact materials, paving the way for compliance. From overall migration tests to expert advice on emerging regulations, compliance issues and documentation review, SGS is the partner to trust. In the end, it’s only trusted because it’s tested. Discover more on our website and read our brochure.

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