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Food Safety

Initiative on ceramic and vitreous FCMs

New initiative

Aimed at lowering migration limits for lead, cadmium and introducing limits for aluminium, arsenic, barium, cobalt, chromium and nickel from ceramic and vitreous food contact materials

Ceramic and vitreous food contact materials (FCMs) include tableware and kitchenware such as plates, cups, glasses, bowls or oven trays. Vitreous materials include glass, crystal and enamelled metals. Metals such as lead and cadmium are used for technical (e.g. give shine, durability) or decorative purposes (e.g. colours). Therefore, there is a risk these metals transfer into food from ceramic and vitreous FCMs.

In this context, EU legislation on FCM provides that materials in contact with food "shall neither adversely affect consumer health nor influence the quality of the food", and "shall be manufactured under good manufacturing practices". The legislation also empowers the Commission to establish limits on the migration of chemicals from FCMs into food. Legislation on ceramic food contact materials – Directive 84/500/EEC – sets such limits for lead and cadmium and ensures the safety of ceramic table and kitchenware.

However, recent scientific evidence and enforcement data indicate that current exposure from those metals may be of concern and that those metals are sometimes released in significant amounts from both ceramic and vitreous FCMs.

The policy initiative

Based on current health data including opinions published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the measure would significantly lower the limits of lead, cadmium and introduce limits for aluminium, arsenic, barium, cobalt, chromium and nickel. The scope would be expanded to include not only ceramic but also vitreous FCMs – glass, crystal and enamelled metals.

Considering this would affect EU producers, in particular smaller artisans, hobbyists and producers of cultural and traditional value, the Commission is also looking at ways to mitigate the impact of updating the limits on those producers.

Three types of “mitigating provisions” are being assessed:

  1. Tailored transition plans to address the situation where a manufacturer would have significant costs, for example to replace their ovens, or need additional time and resources to change their materials and production methods in order to comply with the new limits. The legislation would set a transition period after which all articles placed on the market will need to comply. However, this may not be sufficient for some producers.

    To prevent operators from having to stop their production and close their businesses, such producers would be able to agree with their national competent authorities tailored transition plans during which they can continue sell their articles while they make the necessary changes to comply. They would also need to label that their articles are under “transition” and inform customers on the adequate use and care needed.

  2. Quality control through the supply chain to control the quality of raw materials supplied to manufacturers and reduce their need to test final articles. Supplies will be required to know and communicate the composition of their supplies (labelling, declaration of compliance). Those selling to hobbyists and artisan must also provide adequate instructions on how to use those raw materials, the labels to put on final articles, and an explanation of legal requirements to produce and sell articles for food contact.
  3. Conditional derogation for artisanal and traditional products. This will enable artisans and producers of articles of traditional or cultural value to continue produce and place on the market articles that exceed by a certain maximum amount the new limits but under certain conditions: 1) mandatory labelling and adequate use and care instructions for end-users and 2) for traditional producers, mandatory application to the national competent authority.

Indeed, it may be more difficult for artisans to ensure the constant quality of their production and for some traditional and cultural articles to comply with the new limits because the value of their products depends directly on the use of those metals and/or production methods.

Impact assessment

On 29 May 2019, the Commission published its Inception Impact Assessment, laying out the problem the initiative aims to address. It included a 4-week public consultation, providing a first opportunity for stakeholders to give feedback.

The next step will be the preparation of an impact assessment, which will carefully assess the proposed policy options and form the evidence base for a possible decision on future policy.

To support this process, the Commission will continue its close dialogue with all relevant stakeholder groups, which includes:

  • The ceramics and glass industries including individual businesses, professional associations, artisans and hobbyists, and producers of articles of cultural and traditional value.
  • Citizens and consumers,
  • NGOs and other public-interest organisations,
  • National competent authorities and EU bodies.

The study and targeted consultations aim to gather data enabling the Commission to flesh out the policy measure, make a first assessment of expected impacts and develop the mitigating provisions under consideration.

The public consultation will provide further opportunity for the Commission to present what the measure will look like and how the mitigating provisions would work, and get relevant feedback from all stakeholders.

Timetable

The tentative timetable for the different consultation steps are:

*Timing and consultation activities may be updated as progress is made and needs arise.

Consultation step

Targeted stakeholder group

By who

Timing

Public consultation

Webinar introducing the public consultation

All stakeholders

All stakeholders

Commission

Commission

Spring 2022

Spring 2022

Study supporting the impact assessment

Targeted consultation of most relevant stakeholders: main industry, artisans, traditional producers, national and EU bodies.

Consultant through contract signed with the Commission

January – August 2021

Targeted interviews and meetings

All stakeholders as relevant

Commission

Ad hoc. Possibly to complement remaining data gaps.

For more details, please see the Commission's consultation strategy.

Getting involved

To raise your interest in being kept informed and participating in upcoming consultation activities, please :

Documents

Further information on this initiative and ceramic and vitreous FCMs.

Document title

Date of publication or event

Presentations used in preliminary discussions with targeted stakeholders in 2017

2017

JRC report on testing approaches

2017

JRC report on an inter-laboratory comparison exercise

2017

JRC baseline report on FCMs

2016

Summary of consultation on the inception impact assessment

2019

Commission's consultation strategy

Last updated : 27/05/2021

Contact

For more information or specific questions on this initiative, please email SANTE-FCM-CONSULTATIONS@ec.europa.eu.