This was the message from Dr Konrad Grob, Official Food Control Authority of the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland, in his presentation 'Ensuring safety and compliance of food contact materials', at the Food Packaging Forum in Zurich, Switzerland, recently.
Mistrust in food safety
He said organic food is successful because there is a broad demand for it, and one of the reasons for its success is due to a mistrust in safety.
“Many consumers don’t trust current food evaluations in legislation, despite thorough toxicological testing. There is a large amount of control done by trade bodies and authorities,” he said.
Grob said there are 5-50µg/kg PPDB (Pesticide Properties Database) in food. 10 micrograms per day for the sum of all pesticides together.
“In food contact materials (FCMs) things are much worse in the range of 5-30µg/kg, the exposure is in the order of 1-10mg/day. 100-1000 times more than exposure to pesticides, so if people don’t want to eat organic they should look more at food contact materials,” he added.
“There is a big gap in food safety why should people trust FCMs if they don’t trust pesticides.
“We have to accept the reality. We are paid to enforce what legislation promises but we can’t. Compliance declarations are incomplete.”
The answer, Grob said is to define what the gaps are – such as oligomers, and create ‘Gap Descriptions’ which should be transparent and registered with an organization such as the EFSA, BfR and Anses and made publically available.
“Work plans provide room for flexibility and they are feasible on the basis of existing legislation,” added Grob.
“Compliance declarations render problems as they are unrealistic. We need to take a more flexible and pragmatic approach. The situation is as it is.
“We do not fulfill the expectation of the consumers. We have to admit studies are needed and we need to find solutions."
According to Grob, the main problem is ORPIs (Oligomers, reaction products and impurities) and ‘we need to get get that under control’.
“Europe made a big effort in the 70s by listing authorized substances and by limiting the level of toxicology through its OML (Overall Migration Limit) but the methods at that time were very primitive,” he said.
“This largely stopped around 2005 because the industry refused to contribute towards any further collaboration. OML does not ensure safety.
“Compliance work now has to be documented and a compliance declaration signed to prove the safety has been demonstrated but that is not possible. It has to be controlled and Gap Descriptions are one way of doing that.
“We need to deblock the situation and find a way to get the situation acceptable.”
FPF is a charitable, not-for-profit organization founded in 2012 and based in Zurich, Switzerland.
It is governed by an independent foundation board consisting of an international group of academic scientists and science communication experts. It is funded by donations from companies including the packaging supply chain.