Food contact materials

Food comes into contact with many materials and articles during its production, processing, storage, preparation and serving, before its eventual consumption. Such materials and articles are called Food Contact Materials (FCMs). Food contact materials are either intended to be brought into contact with food, are already in contact with food, or can reasonably be brought into contact with food or transfer their constituents to the food under normal or foreseeable use. This includes direct or indirect contact.

Examples include:

  • containers for transporting food
  • machinery to process food
  • packaging materials
  • kitchenware and tableware

The term does not cover fixed public or private water supply equipment.

FCMs should be sufficiently inert so that their constituents neither adversely affect consumer health nor influence the quality of the food. To ensure the safety of FCMs, and to facilitate the free movement of goods, EU law provides for binding rules that business operators must comply with.

The EU Rules on food contact materials can be of general scope, i.e. apply to all FCMs or apply to specific materials only. EU law may be complemented with Member States’ national legislation if specific EU rules do not exist.

The safety of FCMs is evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). At EFSA's website you can search for opinions on substances to be used in food contact materials.

The safety of Food Contact Materials is tested by the business operators placing them on the market, and by the competent authorities of the Member States during official checks. Scientific knowledge and technical competence on testing methods is being maintained by the European Reference Laboratory for Food Contact Materials (EURL-FCM). Its website provides guidelines and other resources concerning the testing of food contact materials.

Union legislation on food contact materials at EU level aims to:

  • Protect consumers' health
  • Ensure the effective functioning of the internal market

Import controls

Introduction

Through Commission Regulation (EU) No 284/2011, EU legislation imposes border controls for food contact materials originating in or consigned from China and Hong Kong, and more specifically for those FCMs made of polyamide and melamine plastic.

You can find more information on the website of DG Health and Food Safety.

Inspections and decision

Pre-notification

For each consignment of polyamide or melamine plastic kitchenware originating in or consigned from China or Hong Kong the estimated date and time of its physical arrival must be pre-notified by an interested party to the FASFC at the Designated Point of Entry (DPE) at least two working days in advance. This pre-notification must be submitted by means of a Common Entry Document (laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) 669/2009), the CED, of which part I, with the exception of point I.2, is filled out completely and correctly.  For each consignment a CED must be drawn up via the TRACES system

Documentary checks

Each consignment of polyamide or melamine plastic kitchenware originating in or consigned from China or Hong Kong must be accompanied by a document included in Commission Regulation (EU) No 284/2011 which certifies the following:

for polyamide plastic kitchenware: that the articles do not release PAAs (primary aromatic amines) in a detectable quantity. The analysis report containing the analysis results and the method used must be attached to the document ;

For melamine plastic kitchenware: that the articles do not release more than 15 mg of formaldehyde per kg of foodstuff. The analysis report containing the analysis results and the method used must be attached to the document.

This document shall also contain the list of additional documents which confirm that the consignment meets the requirements concerning the release of primary aromatic amines or formaldehyde laid down in Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 of the Commission of 14 January 2011.

This document, as well as the declaration of conformity and the analysis report shall be systematically checked.

If the imported consignment consists of different kitchen utensils (e.g. the consignment consists of sales units containing one spoon and one fork) the analyses must be carried out on each specific type of kitchen utensil (e.g. both the forks and the spoons must be analysed) and this information must be clearly stated in the analysis report.

Identity checks and physical checks

Identity checks and physicals checks, including a laboratory analysis, shall be carried out on 10% of the consignments.

Decision

After the checks have been carried out, the person in charge of the DPE will make a decision regarding the consignment.  The consignment may be either accepted or rejected. If the consignment is allowed into the country, it is thereby released for free circulation throughout the entire European Union. A rejection may result in treatment (non-food destination), destruction or return of the consignment.

The person responsible for the consignment shall receive a CED signed and stamped by the person in charge of the DPE, as well as the completed document.

Last updated: 20/09/2019