The guide, which will be regularly updated, aims to provide a management tool to minimise the risk of migration, organoleptic changes (noticeable via the senses) and contamination in carton manufacture.
It covers the entire production process, from raw materials intake through to compliance and manufacturing, storage and delivery, and also has a dedicated chapter on inks.
The GMP guide was written by ECMA’s Technical Committee in association with industry stakeholders, including national carton associations from Germany, Italy, France and the UK (the latter via BPIF Cartons).
As such, ECMA predicted that it new guide would be considered the “core European reference” for carton-making, in line with EC regulation 1935/2004, aimed at preventing health hazards via migration and unacceptable compositional or organoleptic changes in food.
Chemical migration risks
In terms of scope, the guide is developed for firms that manufacture cartons intended to come into food contact, or that could be the source of chemical migration into food.
For instance, in the chapter on migration, the guide covers the 4 types of constituent migration, one of which is penetration via a substrate to the reverse side of a printed surface.
Other types include gas ‘phase migration’, whereby volatile substances transfer via an airspace between food and packaging, and ‘condensation extraction’ of critical components that can occur during baking or sterilisation.
Windowed and laminated cartons are included within the guidelines, as are cartons used in dry, fatty and frozen food categories, but liquid cartons are not covered.
The guide focuses on the design, development and specification stages of manufacturing packaging products, but ECMA said it should be used by converters alongside an “effective, independently audited quality management system” such as ISO 9001.
Self-declared compliance statements
The code is designed to assure converters of packaging that, under “specified and controlled circumstances” (namely traceability and certification of raw materials, correct production methods) non-compliant migration, organoleptic changes or contamination would not occur, ECMA said.
ECMA technical committee chairman, Arend-Jan Luten said that the absence of a specific legal framework for folding cartons had led to self-regulation within the industry, and the production of the guide.
ECMA members (manufacturers) following the new guide – which is available here – could now issue self-declared compliance statements on a per plant basis, he explained, which allowed them to use a special compliance seal on products.
Jan Luten added that the EU folding carton industry had established a sound track record in addressing health and safety issues arising from elevated concentrations of substances found in foods from cartons.
“On several occasions, the carton industry has responded overnight to individual cases of perceived health risks, most recently related to mineral oils," he said.