New Euro Lab will help keep food safe –

New Euro Lab will help keep food safe Published:  07 December, 2006

AS part of a bid to ensure that consumers buy safe food and that where packaged, the materials in that packaging keep it fresh, the European Commission has today inaugurated the Community Reference Laboratory (CRL) for Food Contact Materials.

EU legislation is designed to ensure that all materials that come into contact with food comply with standards so that safe food remains safe. The CRL will establish an equivalent level of laboratory practice across the EU. It will serve as a point of reference for issues relating to the enforcement of legislation on food contact materials, through a network of National Reference Laboratories and will develop methods, reference substances, training and so on to ensure the best possible implementation of EU legislation in this field. Food contact materials are essential in processing, transporting and storing food. Food packaging is a particularly important material, as it must prevent deterioration of, and at the same time avoid interacting with the food concerned. The CRL will be based at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy.

“I am delighted that this new Community Reference Laboratory is being officially opened today” said European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik. “The work that these scientists are doing has a real impact on our lives, helping to avoid ill-health associated with unsafe food.”

Articles that come into contact with food, such as packaging, kitchen appliances, cutlery and crockery are made from a wide variety of materials, such as papers, plastics, metals and glass. There are of course a wide variety of types of food that are packed, processed and in some cases heated in these materials. The safety of the food therefore requires on adequate standards throughout the industrial chain, including producers of chemicals and materials, converters, packers and the food and catering industry. Advanced analytical techniques are necessary to research and control the potential transfer for substances from the packaging itself to the food inside. The CRL will enhance work already underway in this field by providing common methods and reference data, as well as allowing for regular exchange of information and best practice.

The creation of the CRL and the network of National Reference Laboratories is required by EU legislation to control feed and food. A strong pan-European network makes the regulatory framework more efficient and helps to boost public confidence in the effectiveness of the controls in place.

The Joint Research Centre has more than ten years’ experience of analysis of food contact materials. It has established a database with the chemical and physical characterisation of more than 400 substances used in the production of food contact material, as well as 350 methods for their analysis. Specific examples include:

• the release of substances from materials used to coat food cans, which led to a change in legislation after levels were shown to be too high;

• safety aspects of recycled food contact materials, which led to guidelines for the safe recycling of materials;

• examining the safety of new materials that could be used in packaging, is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.