Food contact materials are any materials that (could) come into contact with food. Examples are production machines, conveyor belts, packaging materials and products like tableware, cutlery and cutting machines. Materials like plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, ceramics, metal and coatings are widely used. 

Substances may be released from food contact materials and migrate into food, which could then be consumed by people. In accordance with European and Dutch legislation, substances may only be used in food contact materials after they have been assessed as safe. These safe substances are included in material-specific positive lists, i.e. lists of authorised substances.  

For substances in plastics and regenerated cellulose, European positive lists apply. They can be found in the Plastics Regulation (EU) 10/2011 and the Regenerated cellulose Directive 2007/42/EC

For substances in materials that are not regulated via European legislation – like for example, paper, cardboard, coatings, rubber, metals, wood, cork and textile –, the positive lists in the Dutch Commodities Act Regulation on packaging and consumer articles apply. [Please note that only the Dutch version has legal value and that no rights can be derived from the English translation]   

If a substance is not yet on a positive list (or it is but for a different or restricted use), the manufacturer needs to submit an application for authorisation. The information in the dossier of this application forms the basis for assessing the safety of the substance concerned when used in food contact materials. For substances in materials that are regulated via European legislation, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will carry out the assessment. For substances in materials that are not regulated via European legislation, a dossier may be submitted for assessment in one or more EU European Union (European Union) Member States that keep a positive list for the material in question. If a dossier has been submitted in the Netherlands, the Dutch Committee for safety assessment of food contact materials (CBVV) will carry out the assessment. If a different Member State conducts the assessment and judges the use of the substance as safe to be lawfully on their national market, the manufacturer is not required to also submit a dossier in the Netherlands, provided the level of public health protection in that Member State is at least comparable to that in the Netherlands. This is the principle of "mutual recognition".  

What does RIVM do? 

RIVM is represented in the CBVV, which advises the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport on whether or not to authorise substances for use in food contact materials. RIVM plays a central role in the safety assessment of these substances.  

What does RIVM not do? 

RIVM is not involved in the enforcement or interpretation of the relevant legislation. Responsibility for these subjects lies with the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, respectively.