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European Parliament Committee Calls for Further Harmonization in the Area of Food-Contact Materials

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Uneven enforcement of food-contact material (FCM) legislation across European Union (EU) is one of the shortcomings of the EU food contact legislation, according to a recently released draft report by the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). The DRAFT REPORT on the implementation of the Food Contact Materials Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004) is composed of a motion for a European Parliament (EP) resolution on the implementation of the Framework Regulation, followed by an explanatory statement. Once the EP’s Resolution is adopted, it will be forwarded to the Council of the European Union (the Council), the European Commission (EC), and Member State authorities.  While EP resolutions are not legally binding, they are, according to the EP, “important tools in the early phase of the legislative cycle trying to shape the agenda.”  It is noteworthy that EU legislative acts may only be adopted on the basis of an EC proposal (subject to very limited exceptions). The motion in the draft report is divided into four parts:
  • Implementation of EU legislation on FCMs successes and gaps: The draft report points out that the Framework Regulation establishes general safety requirements for all FCMs and lists 17 materials for which specific measures may be developed. Noting that specific measures at the EU level have only been adopted for four FCMs (plastic, including recycled plastic; ceramics, regenerated cellulose; and active and intelligent materials), the draft report recommends the development of EU-wide specific measures for paper and board (including recycled paper and board), coatings, inks, and adhesives be given priority.
  • Risk assessment: In addition to increased funding for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the draft report recommends that EFSA considers the so-called ‘cocktail effect’ or multiple exposures in the risk assessment procedure. Recommendations also include improving the coordination between REACH and the FCM legislation and, more specifically, ensuring that harmful substances phased out under REACH are also phased out in FCM legislation. Finally, it suggests placing a greater focus on non-intentionally added substances (NIAS).
  • Traceability: The draft report recommends that all FCMs, whether harmonized or non-harmonized, be accompanied by a Declaration of Compliance (DoC) and the appropriate documentation. It also emphasizes the need for imported products to comply with EU requirements.
  • Enforcement and controls: The draft report acknowledges the importance of developing EU guidelines for FCMs that would facilitate a more uniform implementation and better enforcement in the Member States, and recommends that a single EU standard be developed for analytical testing. It also calls on EC to revise the Framework Regulation to require all companies producing or importing FCMs to officially register their business activity.
The deadline for members of the ENVI Committee to proposed amendments to the Draft Report is June 2, 2016. The first reading of the Draft Report is scheduled for September 12, 2016, after which the Resolution could be adopted.