EU Regulation of Food Contact Materials Enters First Reading

January 29, 2004 -- In November 2003, the European Commission adopted a new proposal for a regulation on "materials and articles intended to come into contact with food". The Regulation is intended to replace the existing EU Directive 89/109/EEC. (Unlike a Directive, a Regulation becomes immediately enforceable throughout the EU once it has passed into EU law). It has now been passed to the Council and Parliament of the EU and is expected to go through its first reading during the first quarter of 2004.

Like the existing Directive, the Regulation enforces the first principle that no substance shall migrate from any material or article intended to come into contact with food in quantities that could endanger human health or affect the nature or quality of the food. Its provisions include:

A "positive list" of authorised materials to be drawn up by the European Food Standards Agency and to be made available to the public.

New materials, for which authorisation is sought, will be assessed through an application submitted via a member state.

Labelling system to show compliance and to verify traceability of materials at all stages of manufacture, processing and distribution.

Groups of substances (including metals and alloys) identified, which may be covered by "specific measures".