What laws apply to food-safe plastic?

Technology

Food safety consists of the resources and strategies used to ensure that a food contact material is fit for human consumption. It is a wide-ranging concept that covers the processes involved in the production, processing, plastic food packaging and even storage of the product.

plastic food packaging

MATERIALS AND ARTICLES INTENDED TO COME INTO CONTACT WITH FOOD

EU Framework Regulation 1935/2004 on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food (FCMs), establishes the general principles for ensuring packaging materials do not release components into food products that would make them harmful to human health, as well as providing rules on labelling and more.

However, regarding plastic food packaging, there is a specific plastic packaging  regulation for all the plastics sold in the European Union: Regulation 10/2011.

REGULATION 10/2011 ON PLASTICS

This regulation was previously mentioned in our article on the role of flexible packaging in food safety. It is an EU regulation that fundamentally establishes:

  • The requirements for the composition of plastic FCMs, with a list of authorised substances and chemical migration limits to ensure the materials do not transfer quantities that exceed safe limits to the product.

We should highlight that the list of authorised substances includes plastics additives, except colourings, which are needed to make the plastic usable.

GOOD MANUFACTURING PRACTICES

Another of the plastic packaging regulations that food-safe plastic packaging has to comply with is Regulation 2023/2006 on good manufacturing practice for materials and articles intended to come into contact with food contact materials. It establishes benchmark measures for production facilities, quality control and the selection of suitable raw materials.

plastic food packaging

RECYCLED PLASTIC MATERIALS

The use of recycled plastics for plastic food packaging is becoming increasingly common, and is subject to Regulation 282/2008. This regulation establishes the rules to be followed, including that only plastics produced using an authorised recycling process can be sold.

ACTIVE PACKAGING

Lastly, in relation to the development of innovative active and intelligent materials that lengthen or improve the shelf life of a food product, Regulation 450/2009 establishes which substances can be used, as well as the labelling rules. As a result of its continuous research and the development of new solutions, SP Group boasts systems and processes that can reduce the amount of preservatives in foods through the use of flexible packaging. This is the case for active flexible packaging, modified atmosphere packaging and pasteurisation processes.

plastic food packaging

IDENTIFYING FOOD-SAFE PLASTICS 

As well as being familiar with the legislation plastic packaging has to comply with, it is also important to know which plastics are the safest to use. Identification codes are used to indicate the composition of the plastics and whether they are food-safe.

Plastic packaging with code numbers 1 (PET or PETE), 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE) and 5 (PP) is food-safe. However, any plastic bearing the numbers 3 (V or PVC), 6 (PS) and 7 (OTHERS) must be avoided as it contains potentially harmful compounds.

plastic food packaging

Additionally, testing methods are used to determine the migration of toxic substances into food. These include the method established in UNE Regulation 53-330, which indicates the overall migration of plastic material in contact with simulated foods.

SP Group also uses lab testing methods such as gas chromatography, which determines residual solvents. The maximum concentration of these solvents is established in Regulation 10/2011. Using this method, we can detect up to 15 different solvents as well as the substance used as an internal standard. We have set a limit of solvent retention 20 times lower than that established in the plastic packaging regulations.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

There is, of course, a safety tool that both manufacturers and distributors can use to guarantee that packaging complies with current plastic packaging regulations. This tool is the tech specs themselves, which consist of a written declaration of the parameters that define the materials used in the units.If you found this information useful and would like more news related to the plastics sector, subscribe to our newsletter.  


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