EU Commission Offers Little Hope of FCM Harmonisation

« Priority instead is mutual recognition of national laws, official tells EU Presidency conference.

The European Commission’s DG Health and Food Safety is to focus on improving mutual recognition of national packaging rules, rather than pan-European regulation. This was the message delivered to a conference on food contact materials (FCM) by Michael Flueh, acting director of the DG’s safety of the food chain directorate.

Dr Flueh told last week’s event, hosted by the Luxembourg presidency of the EU, that member states’ legislation on FCMs can be diverse and different. But what can be sold in one EU country should be able to be sold in others.

As the legislation requires manufacturers to produce evidence of safety, he noted it could prove impossible for small manufacturers in the FCM industry to enter the single market.

Only for plastics is there substantial harmonisation across the EU, Dr Flueh said, and he implied this represents the limit of what the Commission has the resources to achieve. “The rules for plastic are complex. This is where we have evaluated 1,000 substances. How much time would it take to evaluate 10,000 more?”

Every packaging material, including printing inks and coatings, would have to be evaluated to introduce harmonisation across the entire market, he said.
During questions, Dr Flueh added: “Commission President Juncker wants us to focus on the big things, such as modernising and simplifying regulation. The Commission has less and less resources every year. Mutual recognition is the pillar of the single market and we aim to improve mutual recognition rather than engage in further harmonisation.”

Speaking about the non-harmonised sector of inks and coatings, Paul Hunt of the European Printing Ink Association (EuPIA), said his organisation had sought sector-wide industry regulation – such as exclusion lists for carcinogens and toxics and guidance for where ingredients are not suitable.

Instead, he said, it has to contend with:

• emerging non-harmonised regulation in EU countries, even with different definitions of what coatings are;
• a lack of a single industry-wide exhaustive list of approved chemicals; and
• new risk assessment methods.

Dr Hunt said the Swiss ordinance on packaging materials was helpful to his industry, but the draft German ordinance on printing inks is not aligned with it. Germany even plans to specify rules for direct contact of food with printed surfaces, which the EuPIA considers undesirable and unnecessary, he added.
“We want a European piece of legislation that is proportionate, relevant and practical while assuring consumer safety,” Dr Hunt concluded.

Jori Rigman, sustainability director of the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), said the industry wanted “simplicity and world-class standards for consumer safety applied across the EU”, and a balance between industry self regulation and binding rules in EU regulation.
He suggested a three-tiered system whereby EU standards are imposed by the Commission, a second tier of paper and board guidance are agreed by the industry and the Commission together, and the industry alone produces a good practice guide for manufacturers. »

Article by Philip Lightowlers
Conference agenda and details :—Food-Contact-Materials/index.html?highlight=materiaux%20%20%C2%A0

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