EC issues guide on packaging

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New guidance on active and intelligent (A&I) food packaging will help industry players, professional bodies and national authorities understand and implement legislation passed two years ago.

The European Commission (EC) now published the 26-page guide to Regulation (EC) No 450/2009 which came into law in May 2009. As well as providing definitions for A&I packaging, it lists which type of packaging or components fall under the regulation and why.

The guidance also examines the legal aspects of the authorisation process, provides criteria for approved A&I substances to be included on the Union list and lays out a series of frequently asked questions.

The document defines active materials and articles and materials as those intended to extend the shelf-life or to maintain or improve the condition of packaged food. It added they are designed to deliberately incorporate components that release or absorb substances into or from the packaged food or the environment surrounding the food.

It describes that active packaging must have an extra function in addition to that of providing a protective barrier against external elements. Intelligent materials and articles monitor the condition of packaged food or the environment surrounding the food. They provide information on the condition of the food. Unlike active materials, they do not release components into the product and are instead placed on outer surfaces and may be separated from the food by a functional barrier.

The guidance clarifies what materials and technologies come under the regulation and those that do not in an attempt to shed light on what can be complicated criteria.
The first example regarding oxygen scavengers highlights crucial differences in the function of the same technology that can lead to it being classified as A&I packing or not.

Oxygen scavengers can be used in a range of packaged foods and drinks - often in the form of sachets. The crucial element is that they capture residual oxygen from inside the package to cut the food's exposure to the gas and extend shelf life.

However, an oxygen scavenger with a PET bottle that serves to stop the gas permeating through the container wall will not be covered by Regulation 450/2009. Even in the case that oxygen inside the bottle is absorbed - it also would not fall under the law if such an effect is unintentional and rather minimal.

If there is an intentional effect, the application is covered by the definition and it should be declared and proven in the application. Absorbers are used as a second illustration of this principle. Those that interact with packaging gases - such modified atmosphere packaging - and come into contact with food are covered by the law. But those that may exert an influence on substance in the packaging material and don't come into contact with the food are not. An example of this could be an absorber of acetic acid that may be generated from the extrusion of EVA polymers, or an absorber of acetaldehyde from PET.

In exploring the legal aspects relating to authorisation of an A&I substance, the guidance gives an overview of the relevant clauses, as well as providing eight examples including release systems, absorbers, time temperature indicators.

It also lays out the kinds of substances that may or may not be used under the A&I regulation but could be in accordance with Regulation 1935/2004.
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