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Food contact materials

The Partial Agreement in the Social and Public Health Field has been dissolved on 31 December 2008; activities related to cosmetic products and food packaging have been transferred to the European Pharmacopoeia !

For up to date information on current activities in the field of cosmetics and food packaging, please consult the website of the European Directorate for the quality of medicines and healthcare (EDQM) or contact EDQM directly via the EDQM HELPDESK.

General information on activities until 31 December 2008:

Elaboration of international standards for food contact materials started in the early 1960's. It was in the late 1960's that the Partial Agreement started to work on these issues and a Committee of experts on materials coming into contact with food was set up.

The report on 'Substances used in plastics materials coming into contact with food' may be considered as the main reference and background document with regard to activities carried out after 1982 on food contact materials in Europe.

In the late 1980's the Committee of experts revised and updated its activity programme and working methods. Hearings with representatives of the chemical industry on specific issues are held on a regular basis to discuss topics of common interest. The work involves toxicological assessment and the definition of technological standards and limits as well as inventory lists of chemical substances used for the manufacture of these substance groups.

The Committee of Ministers has adopted the following resolutions:

Resolution AP (89) 1 on the use of colourants in plastic materials coming into contact with food

Resolution AP (92) 2 on control of aids to polymerisation for plastic materials and articles

Resolution AP (96) 5 on surface coatings intended to come into contact with foodstuffs

Resolution AP (99) 3 on silicones used for food contact applications

Resolution AP(2002) 1 on paper and board materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs

Framework Resolution AP (2004) 1 on coatings intended to come into contact with foodstuffs

Resolution AP (2004) 2 on cork stoppers and other cork materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs

Resolution AP (2004) 3 on ion exchange and adsorbant resins used in the processing of foodstuffs (superseding Resolution AP (97) 1)

Resolution AP (2004) 4 on rubber products intended to come into contact with foodstuffs

Resolution AP (2004) 5 on silicones used for food contact applications

Resolution AP (2005) 2 on packaging inks applied to the non-food contact surface of food packaging materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs

- Guidelines on metals and alloys ;

- Guidelines on lead leaching from glass tableware into foodstuffs;

- Guidelines on tissue paper kitchen towels;

Environmental or accidental contaminants

The problem of residues in food from contaminants, such as heavy metals, has been studied from the following viewpoints: toxicology, intake, detection, maximum levels and source-directed prevention measures. Resolution AP (93) 3 on contaminants in food aimed at minimising the exposure of consumers to contaminants by identifying the controls needed at appropriate stages of food production and by dietary advice was adopted in 1993.

A report on lead, cadmium and mercury in food including an assessment of dietary intakes and a summary of heavy metal limits in foodstuffs was published in 1994. A on report lead in food outlining the consequent health concerns and relevant source-directed prevention measures was also published in 1994. Monographs on mercury and cadmium in foodstuffs were published in 1995 and a monograph on dioxins was published in 2000.

Problems relating to the presence of nitrates and nitrites in foodstuffs (meat, fish and milk products and vegetables) and in water supplies have been reviewed by the Council of Europe experts. A report was published in 1993 on the occurrence of nitrates and nitrites in foodstuffs with human exposure data as well as a survey of information on the toxicology of nitrates and nitrites. An international workshop on health aspects of nitrate and its metabolites was organised in 1994. The proceedings of the workshop were published in 1995.

In 1996 the Committee of Ministers adopted Resolution AP (96) 4 on maximum and guideline levels and on source-directed measures aimed at reducing the contamination of food by lead, cadmium and mercury.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S POLICY STATEMENTS CONCERNING MATERIALS AND ARTICLES INTENDED TO COME INTO CONTACT WITH FOODSTUFFS