The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), following a mandate from the Commission, has initiated a consultation process on draft guidelines on the substances.
The agency says the guidance specifies the type of information that should be provided by industry to enable EFSA to carry out safety assessments in line with new EU legislation on active and intelligent packaging.
Active packaging involves an interaction between pack and food product to extend the shelf life of the product, while intelligent pack monitors the quality and/or safety of a food product, providing an indication that can be helpful in the distribution chain, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and sensors.
The global market for active, controlled and intelligent packaging is expected to grow 6.9 per cent a year until 2013, according to a report by BCC Research.
The report - Active, Controlled, and Intelligent Packaging for Foods and Beverages - says the industry will be worth US$16.9bn in 2008, increasing to US$23.6bn by 2013.
EFSA said its assessments will focus “on the migration into food of the active or intelligent substances, and of the substances possibly generated through degradation or reactions, as well as their toxicological properties.”
The possible influence of manufacturing processes and the intended uses will also be considered, claims the agency.
EFSA stressed that it is important that there is a safety assessment of such substances before they are authorised for use in the EU: “To do that work, EFSA will require data from industry on any particular substance they plan to use.”
The food safety body said that interested parties can comment on the draft guidelines via the EFSA website up until 22 April 2009.
An EFSA spokesperson told FoodProductionDaily.com that comments that fulfill the criteria explained on the website will be evaluated by the agency’s Scientific Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (the CEF Panel) and considered if it is deemed they enhance the scientific quality or understanding of the document.
Meanwhile, a recently initiated EU funded three year project aims to verify whether or not active and intelligent packaging systems work, and whether or not they maintain the quality of the food while prolonging its shelf life.
The goal of the Natural Antimicrobials for Innovative Safe and Safe Packaging (NAFISPACK) project is to develop a safety assessment methodology for antimicrobial active and intelligent packaging using chemical, toxicological, microbiological and sensory analyses methods.
The agents that will be under evaluation include sorbic and phosphoric, agents of microorganism origin like nisin and pediocin as well as agents of plant origin such as essential oils and flavonoids.
And the Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association (CCFRA) said its review on active and intelligent packaging was prompted by the fact that while many in the food industry have heard of the different active and intelligent devices available, they may not necessarily know how they work or the types of products they can be used with.
Lynneric Potter, one of the authors of the guide, said it also aims to address the fact that food companies often do not have the time or resources available to carry out the required research into new packaging developments.
“This document gives them a starting point explaining the different options available, the advantages and disadvantages of different methods, the factors that need to be taken into consideration as well as potential suppliers and information on products currently in the marketplace,” she said.
The EFSA draft guidelines can be downloaded by clicking here