How does a food react with packaging materials? Or indeed to the steel of a knife, the plastic on a chopping board or the material of the plate on which it is served? Normpack, run by RISE, assists companies with testing, advice and a variety of tools and guidelines for interpreting legislation and regulations.
All types of materials intended to come into contact with foodstuffs must be safe. This means that there should be no risk that chemicals, for example in food packaging, can contaminate the food that people eat. In the language of the profession, no substance should be able to migrate to food.
The Normpack group was established in 1981 and currently has a membership of almost 200 companies. In addition to working to ensure safer food contact materials, the system helps members to meet legal requirements. This takes place through advice, training and testing. Normpack also represents the industry in its contacts with public authorities.
Normpack is operated by RISE and has its secretariat in Stockholm. The staff consist of legal experts Hans Steijer and Susanna Andersson and also Ann Lorentzon who is project manager.
“Small businesses are looking for someone to hold their hand and guide them to do the right things. This is where we come in with advice and training. We also issue certificates. Larger companies tend to join in order to network, and to monitor events in the industry,” says Ann Lahti.
Today, many of the group’s testing activities deal with plastics or composite materials that contain plastic, such as laminates of cardboard, plastic and aluminium.
“Packaging consists of more and more materials, among other things to increase the shelf-life of foods. A packet of biscuits, for example, may be composed of seven different layers of plastic,” says Ann Lorentzon.
Current regulations are based on an EU framework directive stating that materials that come into contact with food must not be hazardous to health. It is the producer’s responsibility to demonstrate that this is the case.
“The Swedish National Food Agency has indicated that supervision will become more comprehensive in future. As a consumer, I should be able to feel secure that the food I eat has not been in contact with any hazardous substances,” says Ann Lorentzon.
Normpack’s contact with public authorities extends to offering opinions on various proposals and submitting statements in response, both in Sweden and the EU. Ann Lorentzon is convinced that the organisation has an important role to fulfil going forward:
"Indeed, as regulations become increasingly complex and detailed, many more companies will require our support.”