Food packaging

Implementing strict new legislation requires dedication

​Legislation affecting food packaging, particularly in Europe, the US and China, is constantly evolving. Metsä Board product safety managers Katja Tuomola and Marjatta Punkka provide a helpful update.

9/2017 TEXT: IAN FENTON, PHOTOS: METSÄ BOARD & SEPPO SAMULI

​Food contact seems a particularly dynamic area. What are the main concerns?

Katja Tuomola: One main concern is mineral oil migration, their sources being mostly recycled pulp and paper containing residuals from printing inks and other sources. In Germany, draft legislation to control the levels of mineral oil migration in food packaging has been in the works since 2009. France also published a recommendation to reduce foodstuff contamination by mineral oils in May 2017.

Metsä Board fresh fibre paperboards do not have the mineral oil migration risks, but we follow the discussion concerning mineral oils closely. We believe that harmonised EU-level regulations would be a preferable course of action. In fact, harmonisation efforts have recently begun with a recommendation on mineral oil monitoring of foods and packaging materials given in January (2017/84).

Perfluorinated chemicals, which have been linked to birth defects, are becoming another area of concern. These have been found in some fast-food packaging, where the chemicals may be used as a grease barrier. Draft legislation already exists in California, while in Europe, Denmark has taken a strong position on this topic and NGOs are exerting pressure for EU-level action.

Katja Tuomola
Katja Tuomola, product safety manager at Metsä Board

Does the USA’s Food Safety Modernisation Act relate to paperboard?

Katja Tuomola: This legislation – and more precisely, its foreign-supplier verification programme – includes food contact substances. For Metsä Board, this would mean that our packaging materials must comply with the same standards as food in terms of hazard identification and analysis of potential risks. However, as it currently stands, the FSMA would create more work for importers of food contact substances than for domestic suppliers. The deadline for implementing this verification has been extended to 2019, and we hope to see amendments before that date is reached.

And what effect is China’s new food-safety legislation having?

Marjatta Punkka: China’s new food-safety law came into force in 2015, and represented a fresh start for the country’s food-contact legislation. As part of the new legislation, China published its new food packaging standards in November 2016.

When it comes to Metsä Board, the most noteworthy impact has been due to the absence of optical brightening agents in the list of accepted food-contact additives in China. As our wide offering also contains OBA-free products, this is not an issue for Metsä Board, so a compliant solution can easily be reached for our customers.

Marjatta Punkka
Marjatta Punkka, product safety manager at Metsä Board


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