08 October 2021
Bamboo and natural fibres in plastic FCMs
In recent years, plastic FCMs (food contact materials) containing plant-based additives have appeared on the market, including bamboo, rice husks, corn starch, wood flour, ground sunflower, sunflower seed husk and others; a general trend towards the development of more sustainable plastics.
Some of these materials are listed in the current Union list of Regulation (EU) 10/2011, for example:
FCM No. 24 Cotton fibres
FCM No 96 Flour and wood fibres, untreated
FCM No 1060 Ground sunflower seed hulls
The use of plastic products containing bamboo fibres is often presented as a sustainable choice. However, it must be clear that these products are made mostly of plastic, while bamboo is used only as a filler additive: this application makes the plastic even less environmentally friendly.
After a period of evaluation and careful analysis, the European Commission and EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) have confirmed the concrete health risk for consumers: ground bamboo, bamboo flour or similar substances can no longer be added to plastics in contact with food.
Why can the use of bamboo and plant-based additives be a health risk?
The use of plant additives such as bamboo in plastics can pose a risk to consumers as accelerated degradation of certain plastics can occur as well as the migration of substances from plastics into food.
“Plastic degrades and melamine and formaldehyde can migrate into food in risky amounts that exceed the safety limits (called: specific migration limits) set by Regulation (EU) 10/2011,” explains the European Commission.
In recent years, the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) has issued several notifications concerning bamboo-based food contact materials and articles. In these products, bamboo fibres are bonded together by means of formaldehyde-melamine resins: the migration of melamine and formaldehyde was found on several occasions to be significantly above the specific migration limits (SML) of 2.5 mg/kg and 15 mg/kg respectively. The reasons for these high migration values can be found in the altered resistance and stability to hydrolysis of the resin caused by the bamboo filler. In several cases, non-compliance led to the withdrawal of products from the market.
Attention and advice
Food contact products made from 100% bamboo or plant material can be legally marketed as long as they meet the food suitability requirements set by the EU and any national legislation.
The European Commission also recommends to be wary of products that are often presented as ‘natural’, ‘ecological’, ‘compostable’ or ‘recyclable’: these misleading claims are intended to strike a chord with consumers and encourage them to buy something they consider sustainable.
We advise retailers and distributors to ask their suppliers for all the necessary declarations of conformity so that the consumer is protected both at the moment of purchase and above all when using the product itself.
In this regard, we remind you that Mori 2A products have all the certifications required by the regulations in force. Quality and safety are essential values for Mori2a: all our products are tested by an external laboratory that certifies their suitability on the basis of specific migration limits (SML) established by European and national regulations.
The contents of this article have been validated by competent authorities at national and international level.