China Works to Enable Easier Use of Chemical Substances in Food Packaging
The China Ministry of Health (MOH) recently added 258 substances to the approved list of substances that can be used in food packaging materials. The new additives include substances such as 2-diethylaminoethanol, caprolactam, and 12-hydroxystearic acid. The move is considered to be the Chinese government’s attempt to ease administrative burdens on producers or importers of food containers and package materials.
This list of substances is one of the three lists that have been issued so far in accordance with the China Food Safety Law for sorting out food packaging materials. The other two lists are the List of 107 Food Packaging Additives in November 2011 and the List of 301 Food packaging Additives in April 2012.
All three lists contain the following information about the approved substances that can be used as additives:
- Approved scope of the use of the substances: The common uses include being added to paints, paper, rubber, or plastic materials that make up food packages.
- Maximum allowance: This refers to the maximum amount that is allowed to be added to the food container or packaging materials.
- Specific Migration Limit (SML) or Maximum Permitted Quantity (QM) of the substances: SML refers to the limit to which a substance is allowed to transfer from a material into food items the package contains. QM refers to the maximum permitted quantity of the residual substance in the packaging materials.
China issued its first Food Safety Law in 2004. Since then, a series of regulations and national standards have been published to regulate different aspects of food safety. Currently, the National Hygienic Standards for Uses of Additives in Food Containers and Packaging Materials (so called, GB 9685-2008), along with the Food Safety Law are in place to regulate the use of chemical substances in food containers and packages. The GB 9685-2008 is similar to several other foreign regulations and standards, including the United States Food Contract Notification, and the European Commission Directive 2002/72/EC relating to plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuff. The GB 9685 includes 959 types of substances as “food additives” that can be used in food containers and packaging materials.
The MOH also published the three Lists to serve as supplements to the GB 9685. The MOH may approve the use of an individual substance in food packaging materials from time to time; the combination of the GB 9685 and the three Lists, however, covers most of the approved substances that can be used in food containers and packages.
Industrial Impact – Less Administrative Burdens
From an industrial perspective, the new list eases the administrative burden on producers or importers of food containers and package materials because the broader list of approved substances gives facilities more flexibility when using or importing certain types of chemical substances. If a facility produces or imports substances that are approved already, the facility is free to use the substances in food containers or packaging materials without any additional approvals as long as the facility is using them in compliance with the approved scope, maximum allowance, migration limit and permitted quantity of the substances.
Prohibited Substances List Coming Soon – Expected to be More Useful
Additionally, it is expected that the MOH will soon issue the List of Substances Prohibited from Use as Food Packaging Materials. There are no regulations thus far that actually prohibit the non-approved substances from being used as raw materials, substances, additives, and resins for food containers and packaging materials. In practice, if a facility plans to produce or import substances other than the approved ones and use them for food containers and packaging materials, the facility must register them as “new food additives” with the National Center for Health Inspection and Supervision under the MOH. The List of Prohibited Substances will supposedly be more helpful to producers and importers of food packaging materials by saving facilities time and energy on substances that are not approved for food packaging use.
Link to China MOH website: http://www.moh.gov.cn/zhuzhan/
Link to list of substances: http://www.moh.gov.cn/ewebeditor/uploadfile/2013/05/20130502135007721.pdf
Sally Li is an EHS policy and regulatory expert for the Greater China Region (GCR) for Enhesa, an international EHS regulatory compliance firm. Ms. Li’s main focus is on monitoring new EHS regulatory and policy developments in the GCR; developing regulatory compliance assurance tools for multinational companies with a GCR presence; and advising clients about their EHS compliance strategy in China. She also has experience at the US Securities and Exchange Commission Division of Enforcement. As a Chinese national who has lived in the US for more than seven years, Ms. Li holds a J.D. degree from the American University Washington College of Law; an M.S. degree in Human Resources Development and Counseling from the University of Bridgeport; as well as a B.A. degree in English from Jianghan University, China. Ms. Li is admitted to the New York Bar, and speaks English, Mandarin and Cantonese.
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