To this end, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (Fsanz) has released a consultation paper calling for further information on how the migration of chemicals from packaging into food is handled.
The paper provides an overview of potential public health risks, the packaging supply chain and current control measures. The closing date for submissions is December 24.
“We would like to learn more about how this is being managed by the industry, and particularly smaller operators,” said Fsanz chief executive Steve McCutcheon.
“This paper is part of a broader proposal which will help us determine whether current safety measures are appropriate or if further measures are required to manage chemical migration from packaging into food.”
McCutcheon added that some stakeholders continue to have concerns about such contamination even though Australian law requires all food to be “safe and suitable”.
“We want to be sure it is being managed appropriately. Our preliminary work with peak food industry and packaging bodies has given us a reasonably good understanding of current usage and safety measures. The results of surveys suggest that good practices are generally being implemented.”
In 2010, Fsanz surveyed a range of chemicals associated with packaging material to assess whether chemicals that migrate from packaging into foods and beverages presented any health and safety risks.
It analysed 65 foods and beverages packaged in glass, paper, plastic or cans for chemicals including phthalates, perfluorinated compounds, epoxidised soybean oil, semicarbazide, acrylonitrile and vinyl chloride.
The regulator said those survey results were very reassuring with no traces in the samples other than ESBO, which is produced from soybean oil and is used in a range of plastics to give the plastic safe and airtight mechanical properties to form a good seal between a food container and its lid.
ESBO was detected at very low levels in a small proportion of samples analysed, though these levels were well below international migration limits set by the European Union and don’t pose a risk to human health and safety.
“To help us complete the picture, we are seeking further information, particularly from smaller to medium-sized businesses, about the kinds of packaging they are using and measures they have in place to ensure safety.”
Gluten-free alcohol claims
The regulator has also called for submissions on a proposal aimed at ensuring gluten free claims can continue to be made on alcohol products after a conflicting nutrition and health claims standard becomes mandatory.
McCutcheon said such claims can currently be made but will no longer be permitted once the standard becomes law in January 2016.
“Fsanz developed this proposal in response to concerns raised by manufacturers of gluten-free products and coeliac organisations,” said McCutcheon.
“We recognise that it’s important for consumers with coeliac disease to have access to labelling that allows them to avoid gluten. This proposal will affect products with more than 1.15% alcohol by volume, including some soy sauces and essences.”
Fsanz will accept comments from government agencies, public health professionals, the industry and the community. The closing date for submissions on the gluten claims proposal is also December 24.