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Progress on PET recycling for food contact materials

EU – The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has adopted its first three scientific opinions on the safety of processes to recycle polyethylene terephthalate (PET) for use in food contact materials. All the processes examined are considered not to give rise to safety concerns if operated under well-defined and controlled conditions.

These opinions are the first of a series on recycled plastic materials for food use. Once this series is completed, EFSA’€™s opinions will inform the decisions of the European Commission and member states regarding the authorisation of the evaluated processes. After that, recycled plastics used in food packaging, food containers and other food contact materials should only be obtained from processes which have been assessed for safety by EFSA and authorised by risk managers.

In this way, EFSA is looking to contribute not only to greater consumer protection but also to the wider environmental objective of recycling.

The three opinions adopted by EFSA’€™s Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF) assess a total of 10 recycling processes, grouped according to the applied recycling technology. Among the panel’€™s conclusions for all three opinions, it is stated that the recycling processes would not give rise to safety concerns if the proportion of PET from non-food consumer applications does not exceed 5% and if these processes are operated under well-defined conditions. The panel recommends that this is monitored periodically in line with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

EFSA evaluations only concern the safety of mechanical recycling processes in which used consumer plastics are collected, ground into small flakes and decontaminated, before being processed into new materials for use in the food chain. Collected plastics used in mechanical recycling might have been previously contaminated with chemicals that are not suitable for food contact applications; producers are required to demonstrate that their process can reduce chemical contaminants in the recycled plastic to such a level that potential migration of any residual chemicals does not pose a risk for human health.

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