EFSA launches public consultation on active and intelligent food contact materials

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has launched a public consultation on draft guidelines relating to “active and intelligent substances” to be used in materials made to come into contact with food. The guidelines specify what type of information should be provided by industry to enable EFSA to carry out safety assessments in line with new European Union (EU) legislation.

In general terms, active food contact materials or articles either absorb or release substances in order to extend the shelf-life or improve the condition of packaged food. Intelligent food contact materials or articles monitor the condition and/or the quality of packaged food or the surrounding environment.

It is important that there is a safety assessment of such substances before they are authorised for use in the EU. To do that work, EFSA will require data from industry on any particular substance they plan to use, which is why EFSA is consulting on the draft guidelines to ensure that all parties are aware of what will be required and have an opportunity to comment.

Interested parties can comment on the draft guidelines via the EFSA website up until 22 April 2009. Relevant comments will then be considered by EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (the CEF Panel) when finalising the document.

An EU-wide list of substances which can be used in the manufacture of such materials will be drawn up under new EU legislation which is due to enter into force in the coming months. Substances will only be added to the list once their safety has been individually evaluated by EFSA.

EFSA’s assessments will focus on the migration into food of the active or intelligent substances, and of the substances possibly generated through degradation or reactions, as well as their toxicological properties. The possible influence of manufacturing processes and the intended uses will also be considered.