UK – The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a warning to businesses, urging them to refrain from selling plastic food contact materials (FCMs) that incorporate bamboo and other plant-based materials.

Highlighting the lack of safety assessment and authorization under retained (EU) Regulation 10/2011, the FSA has initiated a call for evidence to evaluate the safety and stability of these materials.

Bamboo and other plant-based materials, such as rice husks, hemp, and wheat straw, have not undergone comprehensive safety assessments in plastic FCMs.

Consequently, the FSA prohibits the sale of these products until they have been thoroughly evaluated and authorized.

Additionally, plastic FCMs containing bamboo fiber and other plant-based materials are not compliant with Commission Regulation (EU) 10/2011 and are therefore prohibited from being placed on the market in Northern Ireland.

It is important to note that the FSA’s advice applies specifically to products that combine plastic with plant fillers, rather than items made solely from bamboo or other plant-based materials.

Retailers are urged to verify that any remaining bamboo or similar plant-based products on sale do not contain plastic components and comply with relevant national regulations.

Interim findings and consumer advice

In 2022, the Committee on Toxicity (COT), an independent scientific advisory body, conducted a review on plastic composites containing bamboo.

COT’s interim position paper highlighted potential health concerns related to the migration of formaldehyde and melamine from bamboo composite cups.

Consequently, the FSA advises consumers against using FCMs containing bamboo or other plant-based materials, while businesses are instructed to refrain from selling such products.

To address the gaps in knowledge and gather essential data, the FSA has launched a call for evidence on the safety of plastic FCMs containing bamboo and similar materials.

The agency is particularly interested in receiving information from the industry regarding safety assessments, toxicological testing and data, testing on plastic composites, sourcing and specifications of plant-based materials used, full ingredient lists and specifications of the final products, manufacturing processes, and any other pertinent information or concerns.

The call for evidence will remain open until December 12, 2023. Businesses and industry stakeholders are encouraged to contribute their findings and relevant information to inform the risk assessment and decision-making process.

In light of the potential risks associated with plastic FCMs containing bamboo and plant-based fillers, the FSA advises against using these utensils or containers with acidic foods and drinks.

Additionally, microwaving such articles should be avoided to prevent the release of harmful chemicals.

Commonly identified products affected by this advisory include reusable drinking cups, tableware, cutlery, lunchboxes, chopping boards, as well as plates, bowls, and cups marketed specifically for infants and children.

Further research and data collection are underway to enhance understanding of the safety and stability of plastic FCMs containing bamboo and plant-based materials. The FSA is committed to promoting consumer safety and ensuring the market provides only compliant and reliable products.

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