As part of Luxembourg's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, on 30 September 2015, the Ministry of Health organised a conference on 'Food contact materials: working together for safety and innovation in Europe'.
The conference brought together various operators in the food contact materials sector, including the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), experts from the Member States and industry representatives.
The aim of the conference was to find answers to questions such as: how can the safety of food contact materials be guaranteed, in order to protect consumers? What challenges does the sector face? What advantages does innovation bring to consumers, and to the industry?
Safety and innovation to protect consumers
Food safety is a wide area covering the whole food chain, from the primary production of foods, to processing, to the distribution to end consumers of food products which are ready to use and are pre-packaged. It is linked to the various risks to which food may be exposed along the food chain. In order to guarantee food safety, levels of bacteria, chemical and biochemical substances and foreign bodies must be kept under control.
Opening the conference, Lydia Mutsch, the Minister for Health, said: 'as Minister for Health, with responsibility for food safety, one of my top priorities is ensuring the safety of products that are placed on the market for consumers'.
Alongside more common food safety subjects, there are also more specific areas, such as that of food contact materials (FCMs).
We all use food contact materials daily, because the food we consume is usually packaged, whether this is for preservation, storage or manufacturing reasons.
There are many benefits to this practice:
- Our foods are protected from external contamination, such as pathogens
- The packaging enables the food to keep for longer, and to better maintain its sensory and nutritional qualities
- New and innovative properties can provide useful information to consumers: 'has the cold chain of a perishable product been maintained throughout the distribution chain, and is my perishable food product still perfectly safe to consume?'
The food contact materials industry is very inventive and is constantly coming up with contact materials with characteristics that go far beyond mere physical protection.
The sector is also key in terms of sustainability, because recycling processes are involved in the manufacture of materials designed to enter into contact with food.
The FCM area is only partially regulated and, in the past, foods have sometimes been recalled because substances from the packaging have migrated into the food.
'It is therefore necessary to regulate this sector using risk management principles that will make it possible to protect consumer health irrespective of the nature of the materials used, without standing in the way of innovation in the sector', said the Minister.
'I am convinced that this conference, organised by the Organisation for Food Safety and Quality (OSQCA), as Luxembourg's focal point for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), working together with Luxembourg's Food Safety Department, is a marvellous and unique opportunity to set out the fundamental principles to which we all subscribe, and come up with innovative and sustainable solutions. I remain confident that the conference will provide answers to the questions raised', continued the Minister.
Press release from the Ministry of Health