Non-harmonised FCM regulations
There is no uniform legislation on food contact materials in the EU at least until 2026
Food contact materials (FCMs) are materials in food packaging or consumer articles that come into contact with food. These materials can be e.g. plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, ceramics, metal, wood, etc.
One of the four core values of the European Union is the free movement of goods.
This is only possible if the legal requirements that apply to a consumer product are the same in every EU Member State. There are 17 different types of food contact materials mentioned in European legislation.
13 FCMs i.e. paper and board, glass, wood, cork, metals and alloys, textiles, adhesives, ion-exchange resins, printing inks, silicones, varnishes and coatings, and wax do not have specific requirements at the EU level.
EU law may be complemented with Member States national legislation if specific EU rules do not exist.
The EU has been working on harmonisation since 2012, but new European regulations will not be in place for years. The latest progress update can be found here.
How do you deal with non-harmonised legislation if you operate in several EU Member States?
Within the EU there is the principle of mutual recognition, but this works too complex.
This means that if a product is lawfully marketed in one EU country, this product may also be sold in another EU country. However, you need to be able to prove this.
Focus on existing CoE resolutions and guidelines
The most workable practical solution is to demonstrate that your product complies with a Council of Europe (CoE) Resolution and Guideline on Food Contact Materials. Although CoE resolutions and guidelines are not legally binding, they are generally accepted as guidance in the absence of European or national legislation in the Member States.
Resolutions or guidelines are available for these food contact materials:
- Paper and cardboard
- Printing inks for materials in contact with foodstuffs
- Resins for adsorption and ion exchange
- Elastomers such as rubber and silicones