The system for regulating food contact materials and food packaging in the United States is fairly well established, although it has evolved over the years in response to certain lessons learned.
Pursuant to the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act), all substances that are intended to become components of food must receive premarket clearance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unless they are subject to a specific exemption.
The FDA supported the 1998 amendment of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide for the submission of Food Contact Notifications (FCNs) in lieu of food additive petitions for food contact substances.
In the European Union (EU), efforts to harmonize the various systems in place at the national level in the individual EU member states continue, though several important pieces of legislation, including:
The Framework Regulation applicable to all types of food contact materials,
As well as the Plastics Regulation applicable to food contact plastic materials and articles.
Before we start with the trends that are being followed globally in food packaging regulations, first let’s understand how much other countries in the world are concerned about food safety.
China, for example, is in the process of updating and “harmonizing” its National (GB) Standards for food contact materials that were in place prior to the June 1, 2009, adoption of its Food Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China, which prohibits the importation, use, or purchase of food-related products—including food packaging materials—not complying with an applicable Chinese Food Safety Standard.
The Japanese authorities are now working toward modifying their regulatory framework for food contact materials. The present framework combines government regulations based on the Food Sanitation Law of 1947, together with industry standards that have been voluntarily established by industry trade associations.
The Future of Global Food Packaging
While the development of regulatory systems for food contact materials in different parts of the globe may result in some movement toward a greater degree of global harmonization, the systems most assuredly are not harmonized at present.