General requirements for all food contact materials are laid down in Framework Regulation EC 1935/2004. Good Manufacturing Practice for materials and articles intended to come in contact with food is described in Regulation EC 2023/2006.
In 2011, existing EU legislation for plastics used in food contact materials, was consolidated into a single instrument – Regulation EU 10/2011. This regulation sets an overall migration limit and includes a list of authorised substances for the manufacture of plastic food contact materials with their corresponding specific migration limits:
- Overall Migration Limit - 10mg of substances/dm² (square decimetre) of the food contact surface for all substances that can migrate from food contact materials to food. In some cases the overall migration limit is expressed as 60 mg/kg food;
- Specific Migration Limit (SML) for individual authorised substances fixed on the basis of a toxicological evaluation and a default exposure assumption.
These limits assume daily exposure throughout a lifetime for a person weighing 60 kg, to 1 kg of food packed in plastics containing the substance in the maximum permitted quantity.
Materials and articles made either entirely or partially from recycled plastics and used in contact with food should only be obtained from processes which have been assessed for safety by EFSA and authorised by the European Commission. Regulation EC 282/2008 establishes rules for the authorisation of processes used to recycle such materials.
In an initial authorisation phase, once EFSA has published all its opinions on these recycling processes, the Commission and Member States will decide whether or not to grant or refuse authorisation of the evaluated recycling processes. After that, recycled plastics used in food packaging, food containers and other food contact materials may only be obtained from processes which have been assessed for safety by EFSA and authorised by risk managers. The European Commission will then prepare a Register of authorised processes.