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 are 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

Under current operating arrangements for Northern Ireland, businesses seeking a new authorisation for placing these materials on the NI market will continue to follow EU food rules. From Autumn 2023, the Windsor Framework will allow GB public health standards to apply for pre-packed retail goods moved via a new NI retail movement scheme and placed on the NI market. Therefore, goods moving via this route containing GB authorised materials will be able to be placed on the NI market.

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.