Guide

Food packaging

Adhesives in food packaging

Sticky labels are commonly used on fruit and vegetables. They usually give details of what type of product it is and where it comes from. Adhesives are also widely used with other food contact materials.

How is the adhesive in food packaging regulated?

Materials and articles that come into contact with food must comply with EU rules. The regulations require that adhesives used in food packaging must not:

  • affect the food
  • make the food harmful
  • change the nature, substance or quality of the food

Monitoring the safety of adhesives

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) commissions research and surveys on chemicals that might transfer to food.

The industry is responsible for ensuring the chemicals used comply with the law, and whatever research that may entail.

Adhesives are part of a variety of food packaging materials. For example, they are used to:

  • manufacture rigid packs from cartonboard (box closures)
  • seal flexible packaging - including wrappers, pouches and lidding
  • attach labels
  • laminate (bind together) layers of food contact materials

Chemical substances in adhesives

Several chemical substances are present in adhesives. When they are used in food packaging, these substances may have the potential to transfer or migrate into food. The FSA has funded work to check for chemical migration from selected adhesive systems.

Although several substances were detected in the adhesives investigated, only low (parts per billion) levels of migration into foods were found. When only a small area of adhesive is used and it is not intended to touch the food directly, the risk of migration is low.