Testing of plastic food contact materials in the EU market

All plastic food contact materials (FCMs) sold, imported or manufactured in the EU must comply with the regulations (EC) 1935/2004, (EU) 10/2011 and (EC) 2023/2006. The assessment whether a material is compliant is made by performing a series of laboratory tests that the material needs to pass before the manufacturer can write the Declaration of Conformity and start selling the product. We offer all the testing services needed for this.

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Food contact material testing

All food contact materials (FCMs) sold, imported or manufactured in the EU must comply with the Framework Regulation (EC) 1935/2004 on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food. The regulation states that FCMs may not release any constituents into the food in sufficient quantity to endanger human health or to cause unacceptable change in the composition, taste or smell of food. In addition, all FCMs should be manufactured by following good manufacturing practices (GMPs) that are given in Regulation (EC) 2023/2006. Some FCMs, for example plastics, regenerated cellulose and ceramics, and are covered by additional EU regulations that set specific rules for these FCMs.

Plastic food contact materials are regulated in the EU by Commission Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 on plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food. This regulation lays the principles for manufacturing, testing and assessing the safety of plastic FCMs. The most important content of Regulation 10/2011 includes: the list of raw materials allowed in production of plastic food contact materials; and the test methods that must be used to demonstrate the compliance of the plastic FCMs.

All plastic food contact materials manufactured, imported or sold in the EU must be tested in a laboratory to demonstrate their compliance to Regulation (EU) No 10/2011. The tests are performed to verify that the FCMs do not release any constituents into the food in sufficient quantity to endanger human health. A specific testing plan must be prepared for each plastic FCM, based on the intended end use of the product and the raw materials used to manufacture it. The testing plan consists of the following tests.

Overall Migration

The overall migration limit (OML) is the sum of all the compounds that might migrate from the FCM into food. The OML shows how inert the material is towards food. The overall migration is most often tested by placing the FCM in contact with a specific solvent that mimics food. The total amount of migrated substances is then determined and compared to the limit given in Regulation (EU) No 10/2011. Overall migration testing is performed according to EN 1186.

Specific Migration

Specific Migration Limits (SMLs) apply to individual substances or groups of similar substances that are used as a raw material in plastic FCMs. List of limitations for each allowed raw material substance is given in Regulation (EU) No 10/2011. These limits are based on the toxicological risks that different substances cause. Specific migrations are tested according to EN 13130 as follows. The tested FCM is placed in contact with a specific solvent that mimics food. Then, the migration of each substance is determined using suitable analytical techniques.

Heavy metals and primary aromatic amines

Plastic raw materials, such as colorants and pigments, might contain traces of heavy metals or primary aromatic amines (PAAs). Possible migration of these substances into food must be tested and the compliance assessed according to the criteria given in Regulation (EU) No 10/2011.

Suitable sample matrices

  • Food packages
  • Water bottles
  • Lunch boxes
  • Single use cutlery
  • Kitchenware

Typical tests required for plastic food contact materials

  • Overall migration testing
  • Specific migration testing
  • Sensory evaluation
  • Primary aromatic amines
  • Migration of heavy metals

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Frequently asked questions

What are food contact materials?

Food contact materials are materials that are intended to be used in contact with food during their lifetime.

Why is it necessary to test plastic food contact materials?

Different types of materials may release harmful substances to their environment. Especially greasy, warm food is prone to dissolve some of the unwanted chemicals from plastics. Prolonged exposure to some chemicals, for example plasticizers, may cause health risks. Therefore, it is required by the law that all food contact materials in the market are tested according to standard methods.

How long does it take to test the food contact materials?

We are fast to determine what needs to be tested from each food contact material candidate. The actual testing usually takes roughly one month. If the tests are passed the manufacturer can write the Declaration of Conformity for their products and start selling it in the EU market.

What does it cost to test the compliance of a typical food contact material?

The price depends on several factors, such as the intended use temperatures of the materials, what kind of food they are intended to be in contact with and the chemical composition of the material.

The testing of typical polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packages that are intended to be used in contact with any type of food costs roughly 2000 €.

What is Measurlabs?

Measurlabs offers a variety of laboratory analyses for product developers and quality managers. We perform some of the analyses in our own lab, but mostly we outsource them to carefully selected partner laboratories. This way we can send each sample to the lab that is best suited for the purpose, and offer high-quality analyses with more than a thousand different methods to our clients.

How does the service work?

When you contact us through our contact form or by email, one of our specialists will take ownership of your case and answer your query. You get an offer with all the necessary details about the analysis, and can send your samples to the indicated address. We will then take care of sending your samples to the correct laboratories and write a clear report on the results for you.

How do I send my samples?

Samples are usually delivered to our laboratory via courier. Contact us for further details before sending samples.

Measur provides testing services for plastic materials that are intended to be in contact with food. We also help you to identify what tests are needed before the materials can be imported or sold in the EU. We are a fast and easy partner for the certification of food contact materials. Ask a quote for testing your products now.