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New Nordic Guidance on Metals and Alloys in Food-Contact Materials Published

On June 4, 2015, the Nordic Council of Ministers published a guidance document pertaining to food-contact materials composed of metals and alloys that are intended for use in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. (Denmark, Finland, and Sweden are EU Member States, and Iceland and Norway are associated with the EU through the European Economic Agreement.)

Food-contact materials made of metals and alloys are not subject to harmonized European Union (EU) legislation as exists for food-contact plastics. Instead, these materials must comply with the general safety principles set forth in the EU Framework Regulation (Regulation (EC) 1935/2004), and the relevant laws of the EU Member States, subject to the principle of mutual recognition. Under the Framework Regulation, food-contact materials must not contribute substances to food that can endanger human health. The purpose of the Nordic guidance document is to assist industry and regulators alike in performing safety assessments for metals that may migrate to food from food contact materials composed of metals and alloys. Given the close economic ties of the Nordic countries, the guidance document seeks to promote a uniform standard for assessing metal exposures from these food contact materials.

The Nordic guidance document specifically addresses aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, lithium, magnesium, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, silver, thallium, tin, titanium, vanadium, and zinc. For each compound, the guidance document provides the following information, to the extent possible:

  • Toxicological effects of the metal;
  • Risk assessments that have been performed for the metal;
  • The limit value set by the Council of Europe for the metal;
  • Other limit values that exist for the metal;
  • Comments on the limit values;
  • Analytical capabilities for assessing the presence of the metal;
  • Food contact materials where the metal is used; and
  • Types of food that typically contain the metal.

The information included in the guidance document draws on the work of the Council of Europe, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the WHO/FAO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

The guidance document states that the limit values provided for each metal should be used as guidance only, and food contact materials exceeding the limit values should be assessed case-by-case. Given the comprehensive nature of the Nordic guidance document with respect to established limit values and risk assessments for a variety of metals, the document is expected to be a useful resource for assessing the safety of food-contact materials composed of metals and alloys for use in the Nordic countries.