From its initial production until such time that it is eventually consumed, food will come into contact with many materials and articles. These materials and articles are referred to as Food contact materials and articles (FCMs) and include any materials or articles that are:
a) intended to be brought into contact with food, e.g., a glass jug;
b) are already in contact with food, e.g., a milk carton; or
c) can reasonably be expected to come into contact with food, e.g. paper towels.
Materials and articles which are in contact with water intended for human consumption from the point at which they enter a food business premises, are also considered to be food contact materials.
All FCMs can potentially contaminate food by transferring substance into it so FCMs have to be made and used so that they don’t cause unsafe levels of contamination.
The EU rules on food contact materials can be split into:
- General rules that apply to all materials and articles,
- Specific rules which apply only to particular materials or articles, e.g. Ceramic Articles, Active and intelligent materials, Recyled plastic materials and articles, and
- Specific rules which apply to individual substances or groups of substances used in the manufacture of materials and articles intended for food contact, e.g. elastomers or rubber teats and soothers: release of N-nitrosamines and N-nitrosable substances
Food business operators at all stages, from packaging manufacturers and suppliers to retailers, have a responsibility for ensuring that the FCMs in their business are compliant with the legislation and information on the FCMs must be incorporated into their traceability system.