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Food contact

Food contact materials are materials and articles intended to come into contact with foods such as:

  • Packaging materials;
  • Cutlery and dishes;
  • Processing machines;
  • Containers;
  • Materials and articles in contact with water for human consumption.

The term does not cover fixed public or private water supply equipment.

Principles for EU legislation

Harmonising legislation on food contact materials at EU level aims to:

  • Protect consumers' health;
  • Remove technical barriers to trade.

Safety and migration of food contact materials

Food contact materials must not transfer their components into the foods in unacceptable quantities (migration).

Migration limits for plastic materials:

  • Overall Migration Limit - 10mg of substances/dm² of the food contact surface for all substances that can migrate from food contact materials to foods;
  • Specific Migration Limit (SML) for individual authorised substances fixed on the basis of a toxicological evaluation.

SML is set according to the Acceptable Daily Intake or the Tolerable Daily Intake established by the Scientific Committee on Food.

The limit is set on the assumption that every day throughout lifetime, a person weighing 60kg eats 1kg of food packed in plastics containing the substance in the maximum permitted quantity.