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EFSA Says Recycled PET from EREMA Technology-Based Processes Not a Safety Concern

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a Scientific Opinion on a safety evaluation of several EREMA advanced technology-based processes used to recycle post-consumer PET into food-contact material. The opinion, last updated on November 29, 2013, found that recycled PET produced by the "Kruschitz," "Vogtland PET," "Veolia," "ITW Polyrecycling," "Texplast," "Alimpet," and "Esox Prodimpex" processes is not a safety concern when used to manufacture articles intended for food-contact applications under specified conditions.

The processes were grouped into a single opinion since they all use the same EREMA advanced technology and their decontamination efficiencies were evaluated based on the same challenge test, explained EFSA. The technology uses four steps to produce recycled PET. First, post-consumer PET containers are processed into flakes that are hot caustic-washed and dried. The dried flakes are then heated in a continuous reactor at high temperature (step 2) and then heated in a second continuous reactor at a higher temperature and under vacuum (step 3). The final step is melting of the decontaminated flakes by extrusion.

The challenge test was conducted with surrogate contaminants at different residence times in the step 3 continuous reactor, since EFSA considered this to be the critical step for removing possible contaminants. EFSA then used the decontamination efficiencies for each surrogate contaminant obtained from the challenge test to calculate the residual concentrations of potential unknown contaminants in PET. Based on these calculations, EFSA determined that the processes are able to reduce any foreseeable accidental contamination of the post-consumer recycled PET to a concentration that would not present a risk to human health, if certain conditions are met.

Among the conditions imposed is that the post-consumer input to the PET recycling process contain no more than 5 % of PET from non-food applications. This level is consistent with recommendations by the ESFA Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavouring and Processing Aids (CEF) in a 2011 Scientific Opinion on the criteria to be used when evaluating the safety of a mechanical recycling process to produce recycled PET for the manufacture of materials and articles in contact with food. Other conditions include varying limitations on the amount of the post-consumer recycled PET in the final food-contact article, depending on the particular process being used and article being produced (bottle or thermoformed trays and containers).

The safety evaluations were requested by the German Bundesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health, Italy's Ministero della Salute, and the Romanian Ministry of Health.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued several "No Objection" letters addressing the suitability of post-consumer recycled PET obtained from EREMA-based recycling technologies for use in food-contact applications, subject to certain conditions and limitations.

For background information the regulation of recycled plastic food-contact materials, see the article, U.S. and EU Requirements for Recycled Food-Contact Materials.