Scientifically addressing the main challenges in the safety and quality of food contact & packaging materials

Background

European citizens discard on average 157 kg of packaging per person every year, of which more than two thirds come from food. It is important to find a good balance between the benefits of packaging in terms of food protection and its impact on the environment.

Objectives

Recent improvements in food production and distribution have led to an increased sophistication of food packaging. A careful evaluation of food contact materials and their interactions with food is needed to ensure consumers’ safety at minimal environmental impact. This is at the core of the Packaging Materials Task Force activities.

Impact

  • Organised every four years and attended by more than 300 experts, the ILSI Europe International Symposia on Food Packaging (the 6th was held in November 2016) provide a unique platform to discuss the science of the safety and quality of food packaging, supported by the most recent results of research studies presented as lectures or posters.
  • Regularly updated, the nine ILSI Europe Report Series on Packaging Materials focus on the most common materials used in the whole value chain of the food packaging industry. They address chemical, toxicological, legislative and environmental aspects.
  • The Guidance on Best Practices on the Risk Assessment of Non-Intentionally Added Substances (NIAS) in Food Contact Materials and Articles (ILSI Europe Report Series 2015) has been published online. The document provides definitions of NIAS and describes in detail good manufacturing practices, impact on the supply chain, chemical and toxicological characterisation of NIAS and their risk assessment, for both identified and unidentified NIAS. The guidance is considered by many to help interpreting and complying with the European plastics regulation that introduced the terminology NIAS.

What’s New

  • The manuscript on ‘Outlook and Challenges of Nanotechnologies for Food Packaging’ was published in Packaging Technology and Science in June 2016.
  • The 10th report from the ILSI Europe Report Series on Packaging Materials on ‘Adhesives for Food Packaging Applications’ is currently in progress.
  • A new activity on the Roles and Applications of in Vitro Bioassays in Safety Evaluation of Food Contact Materialswill review the most relevant bioassays, their limitations and relevance in the context of packaging safety.

For more detailed information, please contact Dr Lucie Geurts at lgeurts@ilsieurope.be.

Task Force Members

* Scientific Advisor

Packaging Materials Report 10: Adhesives for Food Packaging Applications – New

Objectives

This project aims to bring awareness about the importance of safe food packaging to a broader platform and in particular increase the knowledge around adhesives in food contact applications. This publication will summarise the latest developments in adhesive technologies. The aim of this report is to give an overview over the different types of adhesives used as specific food contact materials in various packaging. Depending on the broad variation of chemistry in the adhesive formulations, the products have very different properties and application possibilities.

Activity

Adhesives are part of various types of food packaging. They are based on very different formulations containing a multiplicity of substances. This report will describe the diverse technologies of food packaging adhesives, the regulatory background and their risk assessment. This report is addressed to the whole value chain and mainly to converters, food packaging producers and food industry.

Expert Groups

6th International Symposium on Food Packaging 2016

Objectives

The ILSI Europe International Symposia on Food Packaging are held every four years and are internationally recognised as scientific fora to discuss and move forward the science that supports safety and innovation in the field with minimal environmental impact. This multi-disciplinary meeting is of interest to those active in issues associated with the safety and quality of food packaging, particularly food scientists, chemists, mathematicians, physicists, packaging specialists, control authorities, regulators and risk assessors. It brings together those involved in basic studies, those responsible for bringing innovations to the market place and those in charge of ensuring the safety and quality of food contact materials.

Activity

The 6th International Symposium on Food Packaging took place on 16-18 November 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. Attracting 313 participants from 43 countries, 24 high-quality oral presentations were featured and 150 posters were selected by the Scientific and Organising Committees. Awards for the best posters were provided by ILSI Europe.

The programme covered a wide range of subjects related to food packaging:

  • Progress in Risk Assessment;
  • Safety Challenges Arising from Renewable and Recycling Food Contact Materials;
  • Safety-By-Design;
  • Innovation Packaging and Emerging Technologies;
  • Future Challenges in Food Packaging Processing and Food Processing Equipment.

Output

This conference of experts facilitated transfer of knowledge and brought innovative solutions to the most pressing issues in this field. The proceedings of the symposium will be submitted for publication in Food Additives and Contaminants: Part A and will include keynote lectures, oral papers and best posters winners. Podcasts on topics discussed during the symposium were listened to around 600 times.

Roles and Applications of in Vitro Bioassays in Safety Evaluation of Food Contact Materials

Objectives

There is an urgent need to better understand the actual safety significance of food contact materials (FCM) as a source of chemical exposure in human. According to European legislation, migration from food packaging must be safe. In principle, any NIAS should be evaluated and / or managed if relevant from a health risk perspective. While there is currently no consensus on how to identify and assess the NIAS of concern, it has increasingly been acknowledged that a traditional approach based on identification / quantification of all substances together with their full toxicological characterisation is neither practical nor desirable. In vitro bioassays may play a role in the assessment of complex mixtures of chemicals migrating from FCM. However, none of these have been specifically assessed for their suitability to address NIAS safety. Thus, the objective of the activity is to review the roles, availability and suitability of in vitro bioassays for safety assessment of FCM.

Activity

The expert group will clarify the roles, availability and reliability of bioassays for packaging safety assessment. More specifically, the activity will address the following points:

  • Define roles of bioassays in safety assessment of FCM:
    • To support application of Cramer class III-TTC;
    • Others (hazard identification / characterization/Tox21);
    • To identify chemicals of concerns in complex mixtures;
    • Determine the most relevant endpoints;
    • For other purposes.
  • Examine the availability, quality and fit-for-purpose of bioassays:
    • To address repeatability, reproducibility (intra- & inter-lab.), selectivity and sensitivity, metabolism, suitability for high molecular weight materials (e.g. oligomers) and mixtures;
    • To establish criteria.
  • Interpret / manage data
  • Describe limitations and research needs

Expected Output

This activity will develop and publish a transparent guidance document on the use of in vitro data in packaging safety assessment. The guidance will be widely applicable (in combination with the ILSI Europe report on NIAS) and should contribute to safer packaging products. Consumer trust should be regained with respect to packaging safety, and business relationships should be improved within industry (e.g. food and packaging industry).

Packaging Materials Report 1: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) for Food Packaging Applications – Update

Objectives

The first issue of the ILSI Europe Report on ‘Packaging Materials: 1 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) for Food Packaging Applications’ was published in 2000. The aim of this activity is to integrate recent scientific and regulatory developments on PET in an updated version of the manuscript.

Activity

This report was originally published by ILSI HESI in 1993. Due to scientific and regulatory developments, the report was updated by ILSI Europe in 2000. ILSI Europe’s Packaging Materials Task Force is currently working on a new update of this report. The updated version has been submitted for final approval.

Packaging Materials Report 2: Polystyrene (PS) for Food Packaging Applications – Update

Objectives

The ILSI Europe Report on ‘Packaging Materials 2. Polystyrene for Food Packaging Applications’ was first published in 2002. In view of recent developments in this field, an update of this report is necessary and is currently in preparation.

Activity

The updated version of the report will highlight major changes in toxicological aspects and on regulatory issues. Minor updates will be made in the other chapters as required.

Outlook and Challenges of Nanotechnologies for Food Packaging – Completed

Objectives

While most nanotechnology applications for the food sector are currently at R&D or near-market stages, applications for food packaging are rapidly becoming a commercial reality. The objective of this activity was to review the potential benefits of nanotechnologies in food packaging applications and identify potential challenges in terms of consumer acceptance, and safety and environmental impact during their entire life cycle. Migration and detection methods, risk assessment and regulatory implications were also addressed.

Activity

The group drafted a guidance document on the new opportunities and safety considerations of nanotechnologies in food packaging. A workshop was organised in February 2012 to gain stakeholders’ viewpoints on future directions of the technology and to find a way forward to deal with the associated challenges.

Output

This activity provides an up-to-date overview of the use of nanomaterials in food contact materials and the migration behaviour of nanoparticles from these materials into foods.

Expert Group Members

6th International Symposium on Food Packaging 2016

Organising Committee Members


Scientific Committee Members

Roles and Applications of in Vitro Bioassays in Safety Evaluation of Food Contact Materials

Packaging Materials 1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) for Food Packaging Applications

Packaging Materials 2. Polystyrene for Food Packaging Applications

Outlook and Challenges of Nanotechnologies for Food Packaging – Completed

Publications

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