Time to get tough on the enforcement of food contact material regs

Time to get tough on the enforcement of food contact material regs

A report prepared by Richard Inns of the PEC Partnership* based on the numbers of reported incidents of non compliance of imported food contact materials shows a serious low level of investigation by customs and compliance officers.  The data supplied by the EU’s Food and Feeds Safety Alerts (RASFF) details reported breaches of regulation broken down by member nation and by the country of origin.

Historically Italy has the highest level of reported incidents so provides a good benchmark. The data shows no relevant packaging breaches reported in the UK between 2009 and 2014 yet in Italy with a quarter of the packaging imports of the UK there were 45 such incidents. The picture for kitchen utensils is totally different with 98 incidents over the same period in the UK yet annual imports of packaging to the UK from say, China (by far the dominant country source) amounted to almost €200 million and kitchen utensils amount to €163 million.

FPA members go to great lengths to ensure all the packaging they sell is 100% food safe and complies with the regulations applicable to markets to which they sell and hold the paperwork to verify this.  Indeed this is enshrined within the FPA Code of Practice, a condition of being a FPA member.

The lack of enforcement of the FCM regulations means others are able to benefit by ignoring the regulations.  We need a fundamental change in attitude by customs officers and by the Food Standards Agency.  Its interesting to note the FSA didn’t include the word ‘packaging’ in their 5 year plan. Surely importing packaging that doesn’t comply and outs the public’s health at risk should be considered a crime?

Although the EU has a framework for FCM legislation describing the FCM general safety requirements Member States may set out their own rules. This complicates the EU picture. It is hoped that current EU research into this area will result in harmonisation which will perhaps result in greater enforcement.

If any member has an example of packaging that they can prove is in breach then please advise me. You can be reassured of total confidentiality with the certainty the FPA will pursue the matter on your behalf. Horsegate taught us the critical importance of ensuring the public’s confidence in the food they are served but without safe packaging the public can’t enjoy safe food.  We therefore must make FCM a priority and push much harder to get those with the powers to enforce to take notice of this issue.

* The PEC Partnership is able to advise on Food Contact Materials regulations throughout the world. Please contact Richard Inns for further information at richard.inns@pecpartnership.com