Yesterday, the European Parliament (EP) voted the Motion for an EP Resolution on the Implementation of the Regulation on FCMs (the EP Resolution).  The EP Resolution has been initiated by rapporteur Christel Schaldemose, a Danish member of the EP and has been voted by the EP’s Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety Committee in July 2016. 

The EP Resolution is timely in light of the the European Commission’s (EC) “Better regulation for better results” agenda, triggering also the “fitness check” of the most relevant EU chemicals legislations - the so-called REFIT program.  The Food Contact Materials (FCMs) legislation is included in this review (see the Evaluation and Fitness Check Roadmap, published in May 2016). 

The EP Resolution 

The EP Resolution has a long list of recitals ("whereas clauses") outlining the EP’s position on the need for a more effective FCMs legislation, including, among others that:

  • The non-harmonized areas of FCMs (those that are not regulated by a European act) can pose a risk to public health triggering legal uncertainty and hampering competitiveness and innovation
  • Impediments to the mutual recognition principle trigger numerous national measures for the non-harmonized FCMs, thereby threatening the effective functioning of the internal market and protection of public health 

In light of the underlying arguments, the EP calls for the EC to prioritize the following areas and consequently: 

  • To enact specific EU measures (harmonized EU legislation) for food contact paper and board, varnishes and coatings, metals and alloys and printing inks and adhesives 
  • To better coordinate between REACH and the FCM legislation, in particular regarding substances classified as CMRs or SVHCs (substances of very high concern under the REACH Regulation) aiming for a phase out also under the FCM legislation 
  • To ensure coherence between the FCMs and the Biocidal Products Regulation, including clarification of roles between risk assessors under the two regimes (EFSA and ECHA) 
  • To conduct further research and regulation into nanomaterials, including mandatory labelling 
  • To secure attention from EFSA and promotion of scientific research into non-intentionally added substances (NIAS), including impurities from the intentionally added substances and the so-called “cocktail effect” 

Most of the identified “issues” are known for the EC and industry alike.  Certain declarations of the EP are, however, misleading and potentially damaging, as they could give rise to mistrust in the legal framework currently in place.  For example, stating that FCMs which are not regulated by specific EU measures can pose a risk to public health is misleading as economic operators (manufacturers or importers) placing FCMs on EU market must ensure the compliance of the FCMs with the general safety requirement set out in Article 3 of the Framework Regulation 1935/2004.  Or, claiming that a high standard of health protection cannot be ensured because the principle of mutual recognition does not work seems again misleading in light of existing market realities that rely on successful European-wide compliance based on certain Member States’ national legislation or standards. 

Points of influence 

Whilst the EP Resolution does not have any binding effect on the EC or the Council of the EU, it does have a political value, creating pressure for the EC to act on certain areas. 

According to the REFIT Roadmap, the launch of the public consultation should take place soon.  Manufacturers and importers of all types of FCMs should start preparing for an active cooperation providing input to the EC for developing an FCM legislation that meets the real needs of the sector and society. 

As a practical recommendation, different stakeholders should submit suggestions to the EC’s REFIT Platform.  For example, the Danish Business Forum’s submission on the Declaration of Compliance (DoC) for FCM requesting the extension of the DoC for all type of FCMs (even where no EU measure is in place) echoed partially the EP Resolution on the DoC.