Authorization of new food contact materials after Brexit

Authorization of new food contact materials after Brexit

Following Brexit – the transition period where the UK left the EU – the UK has announced new administrative rules for the authorization of new food contact materials (FCMs) to be placed on the market in Great Britain.

Read the below article to find out more about the different regulations in place currently, how active and intelligent materials need to be treated and how there are variations in the requirements for new FCMs depending on the time that a submission is made.

Regulations for food contact materials (FCMs) in the UK

FCMs are regulated under UK law and retained EU law. These regulations outline the authorization requirements for specific FCMs:
  • Plastics materials and finished articles including the positive lists for monomers and additives: Regulation (EU) 10/2011
  • Regenerated cellulose film: Directive 2007/42/EC
  • Active/intelligent materials: Regulation (EC) No 450/2009
  • Recycled plastics processes: Regulation (EC) No 282/2008
These measures list authorized FCMs and processes, and outline how they can be used. These are often referred to as ‘positive lists’, or in the case of approvals for recycling processes, these will be published as ‘register of authorized recycling processes’. 

Although Northern Ireland is part of the UK, it is bound by the requirements set out in the Northern Ireland Protocol, which forms part of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement of 17 October 2019. This means that Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules for FCMs for the foreseeable future. 

Active/intelligent materials and recycled plastics processes – the impact of Brexit

Active and intelligent materials are designed to increase food shelf-life and maintain optimal conditions within food packaging

The positive lists for active or intelligent materials and registers for recycled plastics processes have not yet been established in either EU or UK legislation. Until the positive lists are in place in UK legislation, these products may continue to be placed on the market in Great Britain, so long as they meet the following requirements:
  • The UK General Food Law Regulations 
  • Any general criteria required in the food contact materials’ legislation 
There may be additional considerations, where for example, biocidal substances may need to be assessed by the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to determine whether they are suitable for FCMs.

Applications will need to be submitted for evaluation and consideration for inclusion on the positive lists. These may be submitted from 1 January 2021; however, there is no requirement to do this immediately for active/intelligent materials and recycled plastics processes. A guidance document and deadlines for submissions will be published in due course.

Additives in plastics and regenerated cellulose 

New additives in plastics and regenerated cellulose cannot be placed on the market in Great Britain until the authorization process is complete.

Guidance around FCM submissions

FCMs that have been positively listed under EU retained law prior to 1 January 2021 – Brexit – may continue to be placed on the Great British market without re-authorization by the UK competent authority.

For FCM submissions made after Brexit or for those already submitted to the EU before 1 January 2021 where the assessment process has not been completed (for example an EFSA opinion was published but it was not on an authorized positive list) an application has to be made to the UK competent authority – the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The application must be made via the Regulated Product Application Service.

The data and other technical requirements are currently identical to those required by the EU for submission to the European Safety Authority (EFSA) for FCMs on EU positive lists. This is because the UK is currently following EU retained law. Applications to the FSA are anticipated to require up to 15 months for evaluation and subsequent addition to the positive list (implemented as an amendment to the legislation).

FCMs intended to be placed on the EU, Northern Irish and Great British markets will require two separate applications. One to EFSA via a competent authority located within an EU member state and the other to the UK Competent Authority (FSA).

Additional information on post-Brexit arrangements for authorizing new substances can be found on the FSA’s website.

Find out more about our food contact testing support and how we can help you show compliance with food contact regulations and support with regulatory approval processes.

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