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CONSUMER PRODUCTS AND RETAIL E-SSENTIALS

Your regular update for technical and industry information

EU: market withdrawal of harmful food contact Bamboo Melamine plastics 

MARCH 2021 – HARDLINES, TOYS AND CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS

In June 2020, the EU Expert Working Group on Food Contact Materials published a summary of discussion1,2 regarding the use and placing on the market of plastic food contact materials (FCMs) and articles containing ground bamboo or other similar additives like corn and plant-based flours, major products such as reusable plates, bowls and so-called “to-go cups”.

Following a request by the Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded3 that there is insufficient information to support the current authorisation of “wood flour and fibres, untreated” (FCM No 96) on which basis some business operators claimed bamboo could be used. EFSA has set out the criteria for future evaluation of materials from plant origin, including bamboo, as additives for plastics used in food contact applications.

The EU Expert Working Group indicated in the note that ground bamboo or other similar additives are not in compliance with Framework Regulation (EC) No. 1935/20044 due to these reasons:

  • These substances are not listed in Annex I Union list of Plastic Regulation (EU) No. 10/20115, hence they cannot comply with the compositional requirement in the Regulation. The use of these substances would only be permitted as a filler in plastic FCMs upon authorisation.
  • Misleading labellings such as “biodegradable”, “natural” or “100% bamboo” on the products which do not comply with labelling requirement in the Regulation. These products are composed of plastic and bamboo additives which are not exclusively made from natural material;
  • The risk of exceeding the Specific Migration Limit (SML) of formaldehyde (15mg/kg) and melamine (2.5mg/kg) laid down in Annex I Union list of Regulation (EU) No. 10/2011. There have been a number of notifications related to bamboo-melamine under Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).

In response to the note, many Member States started their actions towards these bamboo-melamine plastics, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovakia and Spain. The corresponding actions include advising consumers to stop using these products, prohibition of production, importation, distribution and sale for these products, withdrawing from the EU market (including online stores) and appropriate enforcement actions. 

The State authorities and Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)6 in Germany had examined these products from the market and the findings were comparable with the conclusion from EFSA. The authorities of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg have recently issued a joint statement7 reminding business operators not to put these non-compliant products on market. 

In 2019, the Commission set out a coordinated control plan8 for different FCMs and bamboo-melamine were included in the sampling list. Besides, in the recent FCMs Expert Working Group meeting, the topic of bamboo and other similar additives used in plastic continued to be discussed. According to the discussion, as the corresponding additives are not authorised, business operators were invited to apply for authorisation (prepare dossier following guidance9 provided by EFSA) so that the products could be placed on the market subject to authorisation conditions. It is expected there will be more details released in the next meeting.

 

[1]  Summary of discussion on bamboo (English version)

[2]  Summary of discussion on bamboo (Chinese version)

[3]  EFSA review on bamboo additive in plastic

[4]  Framework Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004

[5] 15th amendment to the Plastics Regulation (EU) No. 10/2011, Sep 2020

[6]  BfR assessment on melamine formaldehyde resin

[7]  Benelux statement on bamboo, Feb 2021

[8]  Commission Recommendation (EU) 2019/794

[9]  EFSA guidance

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