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.