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How Can Metal Food-Contact Articles be Marketed under the Principle of Mutual Recognition?

July 14, 2015
Question 

In your Nov 7, 2013 article, "EDQM Publishes Updated Technical Guide on Food-Contact Metals," it states that the use of food-contact metals "must comply with the appropriate national laws of each Member State, subject to the principle of mutual recognition." If a UK company tests metal food-contact articles and they comply with current UK standards, is that sufficient to be able to market the articles in Europe through the principle of mutual recognition? Or must a guide like the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines & HealthCare (EDQM) one be used as it is a European-wide guide?

Answer 

We are not aware of specific legislation in the UK that regulates metals and alloys used for food-contact, so only the general requirements, mainly of the Framework Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004), apply in the UK. In principle, mutual recognition can be relied on to market products in those EU Member States that have specific national legislation. However, the specific national requirements should be assessed to determine whether they are justified and compliant with EU law. There are, indeed, instances when restrictions to trade can be lawful, but that is a complex analysis that can only be considered on a case-by-case basis.

As a best practice, and given that the Council of Europe has recently published a Resolution on metals and alloys, it may be worth considering this reference to establish safety, even though it is not a legally binding document in the UK. Of course, it is always possible to deviate from the Resolution assuming there is a good rationale for doing so and supporting documentation is available. This is particularly important in those EU Member States that do not have any specific legislation and that follow the Council of Europe's resolutions to assess safety of the metals and alloys used in contact with food on their territory.