Joint Research Centre publishes results from proficiency testing of formaldehyde release from food contact materials

The European CommissionÂ’s Joint Research Centre has published a report summarising an interlaboratory comparison organised by the European Reference Laboratory for Food Contact Material (hosted by the Joint Research Centre) involving over 60 official EU Member State control laboratories. Every year, several thousand containers with plastic kitchen utensils arrive in Europe. These utensils must be tested randomly to make sure they are safe for consumer use. When such tests are performed, comparability of results obtained in the official laboratories in different EU Member States is the key for mutual trust in an open market. In this case, comparability is dependent on the availability of samples that are representative of a given consignment, on the test conditions used as well as on the performance of the method of analysis. In the context of the EU regulation on import conditions for melamine-based kitchenware from China and Hong Kong, in 2011 the European Reference Laboratory for Food Contact Materials (EURL FCM) hosted by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre coordinated an interlaboratory comparison exercise, in which over 60 official EU Member States control laboratories participated. It was, altogether, a practical application of the EU guidelines published last year by the EURL FCM on the conditions and procedures for the import of polyamide and melamine kitchenware. The objective was to check whether the measurements could be done with the same accuracy across various laboratories in different Countries. The laboratories tested formaldehyde-containing melamine spoons, immersed in 3% acetic acid, which is the worst case scenario foreseen for a kitchen tool, exceeding to a great extent the real-life situations of a plastic spoon being used in e.g. tomato sauce. In addition, the scientists checked whether different sample preparation methods could lead to different results. The results of the exercise communicated in the report are encouraging. Over 85% of the results reported by all the different laboratories had been adequately estimated. Furthermore, using two different sample preparation methods did not lead to significantly different mean values, which demonstrated that the two methods are interchangeable, so they could be used respectively for the first analysis and to confirm results that are found to be above the legislative limits. The harmonisation of testing and demonstration of performance in this type of analysis by official controls will greatly increase the level of confidence in guaranteeing the safety of imported goods, as well as in any ensuing legal decisions for articles non compliant with the EU legislation, when necessary. Further more details, a copy of the full report is available at: “Report of the interlaboratory comparison organised by the European Reference Laboratory for Food Contact Material – ILC01 2011- Formaldehyde in food contact migration solution”.

European Commission Joint Research Centre, 26 July 2012 ;http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/jrc/index.cfm ;