The food safety group said its rapid approach differs from the standard testing methods for the chemical which, using official migration tests for packaging materials, can take weeks before the results are known.
Intertek maintains that it can also perform indicative migration testing for 4-MBP, with results produced in 48 hours or less.
Migration into cereal
Recent notifications on the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) had shown the migration of 4-MBP into cereals from the external cardboard packaging.
A subsequent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)’s assessment found that the risks posed by the chemical are low for adults, based on limited data, but it could cause harm to some children.
Moreover, the Italy-based agency, which the Commission asked to rapidly assess the safety of 4-MBP in foodstuffs, said that it lacked data to analyse the effects of longer-term consumption of contaminated cereal.
EFSA also found that there was not enough scientific evidence to be able to apply the previously established group TDI (Tolerable Daily Intake) for similarly structured substances benzophenone (BP) and hydroxybenzophenone (HBP) to 4-MPB, and the agency said it is due to review the TDI for BP and HBP by the end of May 2009.
Food contact levels set
Last Friday the Commission’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health set a maximum migration level for food packaging printed with inks containing 4-MBP or BP following on from EFSA’s review.
“Food contact materials printed with inks containing 4-MBP or BP should not be brought in contact with foods unless it is demonstrated that the transfer into food of the sum of 4-MBP and BP is below 0.6mg per kg of food.
“This can, for example, be ensured by an effective functional barrier made of aluminium or PET/SiOX or an equivalent layer,” stated the Committee.
The European Printing Ink Association and the European Carton Board Manufacturers, following the RASFF notices, had also recommend to their members that printing inks containing 4-MBP and BP are not suitable for printing of food packaging unless a barrier is present that blocks the transfer into food via the gasphase.
In addition, the Standing Committee said member states should monitor that food packaging companies using food contact materials printed with UV cured printing techniques have documentation in place that shows the application of appropriate measures to reduce the migration.