Materials and articles which are intended or reasonably to be expected to come into contact with food, such as food packaging, kitchen equipment, glassware, cutlery and dishes, are all considered to be food contact material.
These products can be made from a variety of materials including plastics, glass, paperboard and metal. These materials must be manufactured and processed in compliance with EU regulations, including good manufacturing practices, so that any potential transfer (migration) of chemical substances into the food during use does not raise any safety concerns, change the composition of the food in an unacceptable way or have any adverse effects on the taste and/or odour of foods.
Regulation (EC) 1935/2004 provides the harmonised legal framework for food contact materials in the European Union. It sets out the following general principles of safety for all food contact materials:
Article 15 of the regulation specifies the labelling requirements. It says that food contact materials shall be accompanied by the words "for food contact" or the symbol below, unless when it is obvious that the article is for food contact:
Article 11 of Regulation (EC) 450/2009 on active and intelligent food contact materials has additional rules on labelling. Consumers are informed of non-edible parts whenever they are perceived as edible with the words 'DO NOT EAT' and with the following symbol:
Regulation (EC) 2023/2006 provides the details on how to comply with the general principle of good manufacturing practice, for example:
Good manufacturing rules apply to all stages throughout the whole manufacturing process. Quality systems like ISO 9000 control that products are produced according to procedures and specifications. Such quality systems may provide a basis for 'good manufacturing practice', but it is only sufficient if the good manufacturing practice principles are applied in addition. Good manufacturing practice ensures that all products are safe for the intended food contact use.
Annex I of Regulation (EC) 1935/2004 lists seventeen material groups that are subject to specific measures.
Only four out of seventeen material groups are covered by EU legislation.
The majority of EU Member States have adopted their own national laws for food contact materials without specific EU measures. The regulated material groups and requirements differ from one Member State to another.
Finally, the Council of Europe (CoE) has published recommendations for some food contact materials.
The seventeen material groups listed in Regulation (EC) 1935/2004 are:
For more information on food contact material legislation in the EU, please visit:
Technical expert guidelines on food contact materials are available from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the European Union Reference Laboratory for Food Contact Materials (EURL-FCM):