All materials and articles that come into direct or indirect contact with food are called food contact materials.
Food contact materials include for example:
- Food packing materials such as plastic bags, plastic films, paper bags, paperboard boxes, foil and disposable tableware
- dishes and cutlery
- cooking supplies such as pots, frying pans, baking trays, ladles and whisks
- cooking appliances such as food processors, whisking devices, juicers and coffeemakers
- cooking appliance parts such as seals, tubes, pipes and gears
- various surfaces such as worktops, conveyor belts, cloth filters etc.
- Various intermediate materials used in the manufacture of final contact materials, such as printing inks, plastic granulates, mixtures of plastics and additives, pulp and ceramics glazes and clay materials.
An example of indirect and direct contact with food is biscuit packaging: the biscuits are first wrapped in clear plastic (direct contact with food) and then placed in a paperboard box (indirect contact with food)
Legislation (EU regulation 1935/2004) recognises 17 food contact materials: active and intelligent materials and articles, plastic, paper and paperboard, rubber, cork, wood, metals and alloys, adhesives such as glue, ink, ceramics, glass, ion exchange resins, textiles, waxes and coatings, regenerated cellulose and silicones. In practice, food contact materials often consist of many different types of materials that have been combined to achieve desired properties.
Virtually all materials and articles that are designed to be in contact with food, are already in contact with food or could be expected to come into contact with food are food contact materials.