Migration Testing for Food Contact Materials (FCMs)

Intertek’s Food Contact Material (FCM) migration testing solutions incorporates tailored testing for food packaging, kitchen utensils, and food processing machinery.

Migration limits have been established for FCMs based on the toxicological risk assessment of these substances. These limits are included in various Food Contact Regulations with the aim to control the exposure of these substances to protect human health.

Migration is the transfer of chemical substances from FCMs into food. Several food contact legislative frameworks worldwide have set out requirements on testing the migration of substances.

Overall Migration

The Overall Migration limit (OML) applies to the sum of all substances that can migrate from the FCM into food (or food simulant). The OML is a measure for the inertness of the material. This limit is used in food contact regulations in Europe, China and South America (Mercosur), among others. Notably, US FDA does not specify an OML, although similar requirements are in place.

Specific Migration

A Specific Migration Limit (SML) applies to an individual substance or sometimes to a group of similar substances. These limits are based on the toxicological hazard that a substance causes. Analytical techniques are used to identify the presence of these substances in food (and food simulants). Limits specific to the migration of certain substances can be found in almost every food contact regulation, ranging from a handful of high-risk substances to extensive lists of constituents with a SML.

Specification Testing

In specification testing, materials are assessed by their properties which are related to quality, purity or indirectly to migration behavior. These tests are intended to verify whether a material meets the specifications that the legislator originally used to allow a material for use in food contact. These tests are applied to many materials that are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The Chinese food contact framework also uses these tests in conjunction with overall and specific migration requirements.

Food Simulants and Test Conditions

It is often impractical to perform migration and specification tests on actual food under real-world conditions, therefore, the tests above are performed on food contact simulants, under simulated test conditions. Determining which conditions and simulants apply will vary based on the food contact applications intended use, as well as the regulation that it is tested against.

The challenge for industry is to determine which tests apply in which situations and to which material, and how to choose the correct parameters for testing. Additionally, companies should be aware that testing cannot always guarantee compliance of a material, as this is predicated on many other things besides a test result.

How Can Intertek Help?

Intertek experts have extensive knowledge and experience with both the regulatory requirements as well as the analytical technology used to perform migration and specification tests, as well as understands the chemistry of the materials involved.

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