TMC on vinegar in PET? The lawyer Dario Dongo answers

Eminent lawyer,

our company produces and packages wine vinegars. In relation to a vinegar in pet bottles, we have performed laboratory tests that guarantee the non-migration of substances, from the contact material to the food, 36 months after packaging.

I therefore ask you for your opinion on the advisability of introducing a TMC of the same duration on the label.

Thanking you for your precious help,

With best regards

Gian Paolo


 

The lawyer Dario Dongo, Ph.D. in European food law, answers

Dear Gian Paolo,

il minimum conservation term (TMC) is affixed by the operator responsible labeling for the express purpose of allowing the consumer an appropriate use of the foodstuff. (1)

That date, to be mentioned with the appropriate wording 'to be consumed preferably by', has the dual function of guaranteeing food safety and maintaining the organoleptic characteristics of the product. Taking into account thenormal conditions of use of the food', but also of the information displayed on the label. (2)

The vinegars - such as wines and similar products, table salt, sugars in a solid state, .. - are not subject to the mandatory mention of the TMC on the label pursuant to 'Food Information Regulation'. (3) Nonetheless, the indication of durability may be necessary to guarantee food safety.

The MOCA regulation (Materials and Objects in Contact with Food) indeed prescribes the safety of materials and articles intended for contact with food, including packaging. In compliance with the requirements of technological suitability and good manufacturing practices (GMP). (5) In particular, responsible operators must ensure that MOCAs, under normal or foreseeable conditions of use, 'do not transfer components to food products in quantities such as to:

a) constitute a danger to human health,

b) lead to an unacceptable change in the composition of the food, or

c) lead to a deterioration of its organoleptic characteristics.(4)

 

Risk analysis it must be performed on the basis of European standards, as regards the materials subject to harmonized regulations, or national ones (in the absence of harmonization).

PET it is one of the plastic materials intended to come into contact with food products and is therefore subject to specific European regulations. (6) In particular as regards:

- compositional conformity of the product, the formulation must be consistent with the positive lists of substances allowed by regulation (EU) no. 10/2011,

- analytical compliance, to be verified by laboratory tests on the material or article (in this case, a container) in its finished form. It goes without saying that this compliance must be ascertained and guaranteed throughout the course of theshelf life' of the product.

The analytical tests must be conducted in conditions representative of the concrete use of the article, also taking into account the chemical-physical characteristics of the foods contained therein. As well as, in fact, the times and maximum storage temperatures. Furthermore, the results of the migration tests obtained in food products prevail over the results obtained in food simulants.

 

In the present case, it is therefore necessary for the purposes of food safety to introduce a TMC to communicate to the consumer the deadline within which the food product can be used under appropriate conditions. This term can be defined as 36 months, where the tests carried out by an accredited laboratory certify the absence of migration of potentially dangerous substances by that date.

Conversely, it cannot be admitted the extension of durability if the interaction process between food and packaging has not been monitored and controlled by laboratory analysis. Nor can the failure to affix the term of conservation on the label be admitted, except for the only (and remote, if not impossible) hypothesis in which the risk of migration of unwanted substances can be excluded with absolute certainty.

 

The duty and an appropriate risk assessment cannot in fact fail to consider the food product in its entirety. That is to say as a system consisting of the whole food with the packaging that wraps or contains it.

cordially

Dario

 

Notes

(1) See reg. EU 1169/11, articles 9.1.f and 24, Annex X.1.c

(2) See reg. CE 178/02, article 14.3

(3) See reg. EU 1169/11, Annex X.1.d

(4) See reg. CE 1935/2004, 'rregarding materials and objects intended to come into contact with food products', article 3.1

(5) See reg. CE 2023/06, on good manufacturing practices for materials and objects intended to come into contact with food products

(6) See reg. EU 10/11, 'concerning plastic materials and objects intended to come into contact with food products and subsequent updates'



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