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Outcome of EURL-FCM Workshop on Sensory science for food contact materials safety

Overview of approaches and good practices by the EU network of National Reference Laboratories

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On 29th November the European Union Reference Laboratory for Food Contact Materials (EURL-FCM) hosted a workshop on "Sensory science for food contact materials safety". The event is the result of a consensus request from the EU Network of National Reference Laboratories under emerging topics of interest.

During the workshop, an overview was provided of what is done or can be done from the field of sensory science (*) or interface between sensory and instrumental methods towards the application of Art. 3 of Regulation 1935/2004, which foresees that food contact materials should not change the sensory properties of the food (**). Implementation of this article is currently hindered by the lack of guidance on methodologies adequately covering compliance testing; official controls could benefit from an overview of the state-of-the-art knowledge on scientific approaches and practices from academia and stakeholders. 

The workshop presented approaches and good practices already implemented for different sectors or type of work (controls, compliance testing, screening). It encompassed expertise from the value chain (raw materials, food contact materials side - plastics, paper, other - , food side) and from institutes in charge of third party testing and controls where applicable.

The participants

  • analysed the degree of harmonisation or lack in sensory testing in different countries – in industry, universities and food authorities (methods and eventually criteria for acceptability),
  • identified themes to be covered in more specifics (e.g. composition of panel, criteria for assessors, calibration etc), and
  • draw a list experts skilled in sensory test of food contact materials (for participation in workshops and further forum discussions).

Such overview aimed at developing a basis for further exchange of information on whether a guidance might be of use. Building on it, the Network of National Reference Laboratories can now assess whether there is expertise from various sides that could be put together.

The programme of the workshop can be downloaded below.

(*) Sensory science, i.e. tests that aim to investigate the development and presence of odour or taints  (negative effects on taste) for the implementation the overarching food contact legislation which requires that food packaging should not deteriorate the odour or taste of foods.

(**) Article 3 of Regulation 1935/2004 states that “materials and articles, shall be manufactured in compliance with good manufacturing practice so that, under normal or foreseeable conditions of use, they do not transfer their constituents to food in quantities which could: (a) endanger human health; or (b) bring about an unacceptable change in the composition of the food; or (c) bring about a deterioration in the organoleptic characteristics thereof”.  Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 October 2004 on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food and repealing Directives 80/590/EEC and 89/109/EEC. OJ L 338, 13.11.2004, page 4.

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