Food packaging

Food packaging safety regulations


'Food contact material' refers to packaging that comes into contact with food. Other examples of food contact material include:

  • cookware/ceramic ware
  • cutlery /crockery
  • work surfaces
  • food processing equipment and machinery

What do we mean by food contact materials?

The European Food Safety Authority has produced this video to explain what food contact materials are:

How is food contact material regulated?

European Regulation 1935/2004 governs food contact materials. This regulation lays down chemical safety requirements for food contact materials. The law protects:

  • human health
  • the nature, substance and quality of the food in the packaging

The regulation covers all food contact material. It states specific controls on some particular groups of food contact materials, including:

  • 'active' food contact materials - these release a substance into the food to extend its shelf-life, or to maintain or improve its condition
  • 'intelligent' food contact materials - these monitor and react to the condition of the food
  • plastics and plastics recycling processes for food contact use
  • ceramics
  • regenerated cellulose film (RCF)

There are also specific rules for:

  • the substances known as BADGE , BFDGE and NOGE
  • all plastics, adhesives and coatings
  • the use of vinyl chloride monomer in food contact plastics

The EU law that continues to apply to Northern Ireland after 1 January 2021 is specified in Annex II to the Northern Ireland Protocol. Food and feed products produced in NI or placed on the NI market need to comply with EU food law.

How the FSA protects consumers

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) works to protect the public from chemicals that could transfer into food from food contact materials.

The FSA manages research and surveys, designed to:

  • identify which substances might migrate from various materials
  • develop or improve methods for detecting chemicals that may transfer into food

Read the FSA's guidance on food contact materials.