FSANZ abandons standard for migration of food packaging chemicals

Posted by Nicholas Nakos on 18th October 2017

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has abandoned a proposal to insert a detailed food packaging standard in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

In announcing the abandonment of its Proposal P1034, FSANZ said the conclusion of its three year project investigating the risk of chemicals migrating from packaging into food, had found the risk was low.

A risk assessment of over 1,300 food contact substances was carried out by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and found that exposures to most chemical used to produce food packaging are “low” and “unlikely to pose a public health and safety concern.”

“FSANZ has not recommended any further regulatory measures be introduced to the Food Standards Code,” FSANZ Chief Executive Officer, Mark Booth said.

The food safety risks of chemicals migrating from packaging into food (CMPF) are managed through the Food Acts of New Zealand and the Australian States and Territories.

These Acts already make it an offence to sell food packaging or handling materials that are unsafe or will make the food unsafe.

Consultation with a range of industry, government and consumer stakeholders guided FSANZ in its assessment.

In effect, FSANZ has concluded that existing laws and further self-assessment is preferable to an amendment of the Food Standards Code.

Leading Australian food lawyer, Joe Lederman of FoodLegal commented “Australian packaging suppliers follow US and EU standards as well as meeting additional industry and retailer standards, and these require “best practice” and product safety and food safety to be met.”

“Product liability exposure both at common law and under the Australian Consumer Law, all remain in place,” Lederman said.

Concern about BPA initiated the FSANZ assessment

The decision to study CMPF came after concerns in 2007 regarding contaminants such as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates and printing inks leaching from packaging into food.

Analytical surveys in 2010 showed that a limited number of samples had detectable levels of BPA, with dietary exposure in all age groups low.

Two phthalates, diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP) were identified as requiring more comprehensive analytical data to refine the assessment of potential health and safety risks.

FSANZ commissioned a follow-up survey of phthalates and other plasticisers in a range of foods in mid-2016 to address to the need for more comprehensive data.

Paperboard packaging contamination is very low

FSANZ also completed a survey investigating the migration of mineral oil hydrocarbons from paperboard packaging into Australian foods.

The survey indicated that levels of mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) from food packaging in Australian foods are very low and unlikely to be a public health concern.

Small-to-medium food businesses have room for improvement

In consulting with a broad range of stakeholders, FSANZ concluded that overall, sufficient control measures were in place to control CMPF.

Some food businesses were said to have shown poor awareness of CMPF and knowledge of suitable control measures.

This was particularly evident in small-to-medium enterprises, according to the FSANZ report.

“FSANZ continues to monitor the science in this area, particularly for small and medium businesses, to help them ensure packaging is safe,” Booth said.

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